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Relatives question deaths of soldiers in Papua
Publication Date : 24-02-2013
Relatives of soldiers slain in Papua questioned yesterday why the soldiers were not armed and why no action had been taken by the authorities, given that such incidents occurred too often.
“The authorities never act whenever soldiers are shot dead in remote areas in Papua,” said Yohannes Sampeda, the uncle of First Sgt. Frans Hera.
“The soldiers have been shot at for a long time and there have been numerous fatalities but none of the culprits have been arrested,” he went on.
The families also questioned why the soldiers were not armed, especially as they were on an operation.
Frans was part of a group of seven soldiers and four civilians killed on Thursday in an ambush in Sinak, Puncak regency. The soldiers were on their way to Sinak airstrip. Another soldier was shot dead at a security checkpoint in Tingginambut, Puncak Jaya regency.
Members of the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM) are believed to be behind both ambushes. Those under the command of Murib are believed to be responsible for the attack in Sinak, while those under the command of Goliat Tabuni are thought to be responsible for the Tingginambut attack.
The OPM has waged a low-intensity conflict against the authorities in the provinces of West Papua and Papua for decades.
The soldiers were heading to the airstrip to collect military communication devices, while the civilians in question were construction workers who were returning to their hometown of Timika amid heightening tension in Sinak.
Meanwhile, the chief spokesman of the Cenderawasih Military Command (Kodam), Lt. Col. Jansen, admitted the soldiers were not carrying rifles because they were mingling with local residents.
“The soldiers had their firearms stored at the local military command [Koramil],” he said on Saturday at the military command’s headquarters.
“The soldiers and the local residents had developed a good relationship, so it wasn’t necessary to carry firearms.”
Jansen also revealed that bad weather had prevented the evacuation of the bodies of the seven soldiers and four civilians.
Kodam sent two MI-17 helicopters on Saturday but bad weather prevented them from landing at Sinai airstrip, forcing them to continue their flight to Nabire while waiting for clearer skies.
“However, at 4pm local time [2pm Jakarta time] the Sinak airstrip was still closed so we have suspended the evacuation for today [Saturday] and we will continue tomorrow [Sunday],” Jansen said.
The helicopters from the Indonesian Army Aviation centre are staying in Nabire because it takes only 50 minutes to fly to Sinak.
“They are staying in Nabire for the sake of efficiency. We will fly at the earliest opportunity to continue the evacuation tomorrow [Sunday],” Jansen said.
On Friday, the military attempted to evacuate the body of First Pvt. Wahyu Prabowo from Tingginambut using an air force NAS-332 Super Puma, but the helicopter was shot at when trying to land in Sinak, injuring the co-pilot.