Policeman Shot Dead in Papua

TIMIKA ~ A policeman was shot dead and six others wounded in an ambush by suspected separatist rebels in the remote highlands of Papua on Wednesday, police said.

The police were ambushed around midday in the province’s restive Puncak Jaya district as they travelled to pick up ballot boxes from national elections held on April 9, local police chief Criss Rihulay said.

One officer was shot in the back of the head by suspected fighters of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) and was evacuated by plane to a hospital in the provincial capital, Jayapura, he added.

“Six people were injured, one critically. He died later in hospital,” provincial police chief Bagus Eko Danto said of the officer, a member of the elite Mobile Brigade.

The attack is the latest incident of election-related violence in Papua, which has been home to a low-level separatist insurgency since its incorporation into Indonesia in the 1960s.

At least six people have been killed in attacks leading up to and following last Thursday’s vote, including one man shot dead by police during an attack on a police post by around 100 suspected rebels armed with arrows and bombs.

A fire also damaged part of the provincial headquarters of the national elections commission in Jayapura Tuesday night, although police have not yet said if it was started intentionally.

“I will take firm action against anyone setting fires, carrying out shootings, attacking police posts or disturbing the peace in any other way,” Danto said.

Senior police based in Papua identified the attackers as OPM rebels but national police spokesman Abubakar Nataprawira said their allegiances were still under investigation.

“We don’t know if they’re from OPM. What we know is that they’re an armed group but we have yet to identify them,” he said.

Separatist activists had vowed to boycott and disrupt the elections, saying Indonesia’s control over Papua is illegal.

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