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Gunmen attack Indonesian aircraft
February 23, 2013
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JAYAPURA: Gunmen shot at an Indonesian military helicopter in the restive province of Papua on Friday as the crew was trying to evacuate the bodies of eight soldiers killed in attacks a day earlier.

Three crewmembers were wounded in Friday’s attack on the Super Puma helicopter, which was forced to abort its mission and rush the injured to a hospital, said Lieutenant Colonel Jansen Simanjuntak, an army spokesman.

Eight soldiers and four civilians were killed in two separate attacks in the area on Thursday.

The area is a stronghold of separatists who have battled Indonesian rule in the impoverished region for more than 40 years.

In the deadliest attack on Thursday, about 20 assailants armed with guns and machetes attacked a group of soldiers walking to an airport in Puncak district to collect communication equipment, killing seven, Simanjuntak said.

Colonel Agus Rianto, a national police spokesman, said on Friday that four civilians were killed.

Military chief Admiral Agus Suhartono said the soldiers were walking unarmed as part of the army’s strategy to earn the public’s trust.

That attack came just after gunmen stormed an army post in a village in neighbouring Puncak Jaya district, and fatally shot one soldier and injured another before fleeing into the jungle, Simanjuntak said.

Indonesian military spokesman Rear Admiral Iskandar Sitompul said the same group was responsible for both attacks.

“They are believed to be old players who always try to disturb the situation there,” Sitompul said in Jakarta, the capital.

Simanjuntak identified the assailants as members of a local separatist group led by Goliat Tabuni.

Senior Security Minister Djoko Suyanto said the incidents were “very irresponsible acts by the armed groups in Papua,” adding that, “the government very strongly condemns such brutal incidents.”

He said the perpetrators would be captured and prosecuted.

Data from Suyanto’s office shows that 10 soldiers and 12 policemen were killed in 14 attacks in 2012.

In Jakartay, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who held a security meeting Friday, said the attacks “have bothered security, sovereignty and integrity of Indonesia.”

Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch, said many villagers living near the sites have left their homes because of fears of military retaliation.

Some fled to churches in Puncak Jaya.

“What we heard from church officials there, villagers fear being wrongly targeted,” Harsono said.

The former Dutch colony of Papua in the western part of New Guinea was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 following a UN-sponsored ballot of tribal leaders that has since been dismissed as a sham.

A small, poorly armed separatist organisation known as the Free Papua Movement has battled for independence since then.

Indonesia’s anti-graft body said on Friday it has named the chairman of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s party as a suspect in connection with corruption allegations.

“We have decided to name AU as a suspect,” said the Corruption Eradication Commission spokesman Johan Budi, referring to the initials of Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum.

The commission said it has sufficient evidence that Anas Urbaningrum allegedly “received a promise or gifts” in relation to a multi-million dollar corruption case linked to a sports centre development project near Jakarta.

Agencies

 

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