Armed Criminal Group attacked Indonesian army who were overseeing national trans-Papua construction road in Nduga Regency, Papua. Photo: By Special

JAKARTA (TheInsideStories) – An Indonesian soldier was killed in a gun battle with separatist rebels on the Yuguru River Bridge construction project in Nduga district, Papua, on Saturday (07/20). The Military believes the gunmen acted under orders of Egianus Kogoya, leader of the military wing of the Free Papua Movement.

“The incident occurred at 12.45 p.m. local time while a member of the military was on lunch and prayer break; he was suddenly attacked by gunmen from bushes about 300 meters away,” Papua military spokesman Muhammad Aidi said in a statement late Saturday.

Aidi said there may have been four or five attackers. A group of soldiers had been watching over the construction of a bridge in the remote Nduga district, where troops were also attacked last year.

“It happened very quickly, a series of shots were fired from behind the bush. It was a hit-and-run style,” he said.

A soldier, identified as Usman Hambelo, was hit by a bullet in his waist and died a few hours later, with a helicopter unable to evacuate him due to poor weather, Aidi added.

The other soldiers returned fire and chased after the attackers but ended the pursuit over security concerns and the inaccessibility of the terrain, which is covered in dense jungle, interspersed with many steep ravines.

The military believes the attack was orchestrated by the Free Papua Movement, which claimed responsibility for killing at least 19 construction workers at a remote jungle camp last year, Aidi said.

The employees of state-owned contractor PT Istaka Karya had been building bridges and roads as part of efforts to boost infrastructure in the impoverished region. The rebel group was also suspected of being behind an attack in March where three soldiers were shot dead.

Indonesia routinely blames separatists for violence in Papua and conflicting accounts are common. Jakarta keeps a tight grip on the resource-rich region, which experienced several spasms of violence this summer including the killing of three local people, allegedly by rebels.

According to monitoring data, more than 20 cases have occurred from 2014 to November 2018, even showing the number of cases has been increased in the last two years.

Throughout 2017, armed violence killed three are Indonesian officers and two people from armed groups. In that year, there were nine cases recorded by media coverage.

The following year, the number of victims swelled. Four civilian victims and three Indonesian officers were recorded. The casualties emerged from seven cases that occurred until November 2018. The data did not include an incident in Nduga that happened to Trans Papua development workers.

During 2014 to November 2018, at least 15 civilians and 14 Indonesian citizens killed in various incidents of armed violence.

Written Willy Matrona, Email: theinsiderstories@gmail.com