Papua Shootings Continue, Police Blame Separatists

Papua Shootings Continue, Police Blame Separatists

, 5 December 2010

 

By: Banjir Ambarita

 

A diner was killed on Saturday in the latest in a series of shooting incidents that have swept Papua in the past week. Authorities blame separatist guerrillas for the attacks.

Saturday’s shooting occurred at 7:30 p.m. at the Mulia Old Town Market in the Puncak Jaya district, where four unknown gunmen burst into a cafe and shot dead one of its customers, identified as Muhamad Amas, 37.

Witnesses said Amas, a motorcycle-taxi driver, had been at the cafe with five friends at the time.

They said the gunmen appeared suddenly from the thick jungle on the fringe of the market and fired rounds of shots in the cafe before immediately fleeing back into the dark jungle.

Police say Amas died after being shot five times.

A local resident, who declined to be identified, said she had been at home at the time when she heard gunfire from the nearby Cafe Coklat.

“I was startled because there were so many shots in such quick succession,” she said.

Papua Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Wachyono on Sunday said it appeared that the gunmen had intended to target a group of soldiers, two of whom were from the Army’s Special Forces Unit (Kopassus), but had missed.

“The attackers opened fire with AK-47 assault rifles, and the soldiers fired back with their handguns,” he said.

“However, the attackers managed to escape into the dark of the jungle.”

Police have since recovered two spent casings and a magazine cartridge for an AK-47, as well as a magazine cartridge for a military-issue Pindad SS-1 assault rifle, left behind by the gunmen.

Wachyono said police were still hunting down the attackers, believed to be members of the Free Papua Organization (OPM), an armed separatist group.

He said Saturday’s shooting occurred in a situation of heightened security in Papua, with two extra platoons from the National Police’s Mobile Brigade having recently been transferred from Jakarta.

The transfer was prompted by four similar armed attacks on Nov. 28, in which one person was killed and six injured, including a 10-year-old boy.

The recent attacks occurred near the Nafri landfill in the provincial capital of Jayapura, only hours apart. In each incident, the victims were ambushed by a group of five heavily armed gunmen hiding in the thickets near the landfill.

Police have since arrested five suspects for the shootings and seized Pindad SS-1 rifles believed to have been used in the attacks.

The escalation of shooting incidents is believed to be linked to the OPM’s 45th anniversary, which fell on Dec. 1 this year.

In a related development, two OPM members serving time at Abepura Penitentiary in Jayapura were on Sunday transferred to the Papua Police detention center following a riot at Abepura on Friday.

Filep Karma and Buktar Tabuni were transferred along with three other prisoners for questioning about their role in the riot, reportedly sparked by the death of escaped inmate and OPM member Hiron Wetipo.

Abepura chief warden Liberty Sitinjak denied reports that Filep was on hunger strike in protest over Hiron’s death, but said Filep and Buktar had been “contributing to the climate of general unrest at the prison.”