JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – Papuan independence fighters are vowing more attacks on a highway that’s the Indonesian president’s key development project in the troubled easternmost region.
The threat was made in a video purportedly recorded last week in the Nduga area of Papua province’s central highlands. The video and photos show about 40 fighters, a few with Indonesian military assault rifles and other weapons.
In the video, a man standing next to a liberation army commander, Egianus Kogoya, reads out a statement that taunts the military for being unable to find the Papuan fighters even though they’re in the same mountainous area.
Kogoya, who also speaks in the video, said, “We cannot step back, we will not hesitate, we would pursue (military and police) until Jakarta gives us independence, our nation must unite to separate from the Republic of Indonesia.”
Indonesian forces have poured into Nduga since rebels killed 19 people working on the trans-Papua highway on Dec. 2. The government of President Joko Widodo says the highway will speed up economic development of West Papua and Papua provinces, among the poorest regions in Indonesia, but independence supporters see the project as a way for Jakarta to cement control over the region.
An insurgency has simmered in Papua, which makes up the western half of the island of New Guinea, since the early 1960s when Indonesia annexed the Dutch-controlled territory.
Discrimination against indigenous Papuans and abuses by Indonesian police and military have drawn renewed attention globally as Indonesia campaigns for membership in the U.N.’s human rights watchdog.
An Indonesian human rights lawyer, Veronica Koman, and a Papuan activist, Victor Yeimo, addressed the council earlier this month. They said 25 civilians have died as a result of military and police security operations in Nduga since the Dec. 2 attack.
Indonesia replied that security forces are “trying to be very selective and cautious in the attempt to bring all perpetrators of the heinous killing” on Dec. 2 to justice.
The military says civilian workers on the highway have fled and its engineers will build the 21 bridges needed to complete it.
Papuan fighters claimed to have seized weapons from Indonesian soldiers in a Mar. 7 gunfight in Nduga that according to the military killed three soldiers and at least one Papuan. Indonesia’s military also claimed to have recovered weapons
The statement read out in the video said the liberation army recovered three Indonesian-made SS-2 assault rifles during the March attack. One such weapon is visible in photos as well as a first-generation SS rifle.