– A child was killed and one wounded in Indonesia’s easternmost Papua region, a security spokesman said, in a rare flare up in an old insurgency when government forces clashed with separatist insurgents.
The separatists have waged a low-level campaign for independence in the resource-rich region for decades, saying a 1969 vote overseen by the United Nations that brought the former Dutch colony under Indonesian control was illegitimate.
Indonesia rejects that.
Authorities said in a statement on Thursday that separatists shot at a police station and a military post in the area of Intan Jaya, and the security forces fired back.
“In the shooting, two kids and their parents were doing an activity around their house, so they became the target of armed criminals,” Ahmad Mustofa Kamal, spokesman for joint military and police forces in Papua, said in the statement, confirming one child was killed and one wounded.
Sebby Sambom, a spokesman for the Papuan separatists, said the joint forces killed the child in the gunfight on Tuesday. The authorities did not say what day the clash occurred.
Neither Sambom nor Kamal gave more details of the casualties but the Suara Papua news portal said the child who was killed was aged two and the one who was wounded was six.
Father Yustinus Rahangiar of the nearby Bilogai Catholic church told Reuters that about 800 villagers took refuge in a church amid fears of more violence.
“They’re confused as to where to get food, especially the women. It’s confusing, tense, and scary. Where can they go?” he said.
Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of some 270 million people, for decades faced campaigns for independence or autonomy in different regions but the Papuan confrontation is the last main one the government is dealing with.
Mining companies, keen to exploit the region’s abundant mineral resources, also keep a close eye on security.
Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Since 2010, there have been 190 unlawful killings of civilians by security forces in the Papua region, according to rights group Amnesty International, 95 of whom were killed between 2018 and 2021.
Authorities invariably reject such accusations and say the security forces uphold rights.