REPORTS OF 600 TNI SURROUNDING VILLAGES IN TINGGINAMBUT
by Nick Chesterfield @ Westpapuamedia.info
Monday July 10, 2011
Confirmed reports emerged on Sunday from Puncak Jaya, West Papua, that over 600 Indonesian Army (TNI) troops have been conducting daily full combat operations since July 4 in and around villages in the Tingginambut area. Troops have reportedly attacked a series of villages said to be the refuge of the West Papuan Guerrilla leader Goliat Tabuni.
Troops from the notorious 753 Nabire battalion have reportedly surrounded the General Headquarters area of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-PB) faction led by Tabuni, and have occupied several villages including Kalome, where three soldiers were shot by unknown assailants last Tuesday. The Indonesian government news agency Antara reported that armed men stopped TNI soldiers from carrying out what it described as a “routine patrol” in Kalome village. An exchange of fire occured – it is unclear who shot first – and three TNI were all struck by bullets to their arms sustaining non-life-threatening gunshot injuries.
According to reliable human rights activists in the immediate area, villagers in Kalome were rounded up and subject to harsh treatment by returning soldiers from 753Btn, and reportedly forced to watch as several houses were torched. West Papua Media has been unable to verify these reports, but 753Btn has a well documented history of burning villages suspected of sympathies or harbouring TPN-PB. (Extensive video footage of previous village burnings is available to any interested party).
Firefights have been occurring daily between TPN and TNI forces, with local sources describing it as “a 7-day shootout”. “The current death toll, according to our intelligence data, is that Indonesia have killed 20 TPN fatalities, and according to reports from the field in Puncak Jaya, TPN have claimed five Indonesian military casualties”, said the source upon condition of anonymity. Several civilian casualties have been reported, though exact figures are unconfirmed. West Papua Media cannot at this stage confirm exact numbers.
Battalion 753, the battalion responsible for the well documented torture of West Papuan civilians and village burnings across Puncak Jaya in 2010 (including the infamous Tunaliwor Kiwo torture video), has been recently engaged in a much publicised heart-and-minds Bakti (Service) campaign, gardening and house-building cynically named “Love and Peace are Beautiful”, to mend the bridges damaged by the Army’s human rights abuses, torture and village burnings. It was unclear whether this campaign was mending the houses that 753 had previously burnt down.
Puncak Jaya has been the scene of regular human rights abuses on civilians, with major combat operations ongoing since 2009. TNI and BRIMOB paramilitary Police, as well as the Australian trained Detachment 88 counter-terrorist unit, have regularly targeted civilians whom they accuse of supporting the guerrilla TPN-PB of Tabuni.
Local sources have expressed fear to West Papua Media that their villages are being targeted for pacification and punitive operations after the failure of a much touted Social service campaign to heal the image of brutality that surrounds the 753 battalion. It is feared by local activists that civilians are especially at risk as collective punishment for the potential escape of Tabuni’s forces, in a strategy by the TNI designed to flush out the TPN.
According to the adjutant of General Tabuni in a statement sent to West Papua Media, the purpose of the social activities by the TNI was to create a trojan horse for the eradication of armed resistance from Tabuni and his men. “TNI’s Bakti social mission in Puncak Jaya is really a guise to avoid gross violations of human rights because the TNI Papua Commander was in the area and needed good press”. According to the Jakarta Globe, the head of the Cenderawasih Military Command, Maj. Gen. Erfi Triassunu, said the TNI would provide psychiatrists to help residents traumatized by the widespread violence in the area. The campaign was due to run from 2 May to 28 August, but almost all the troops who were building houses are now burning them down again, according to local sources.
Local human rights activists described the failure of this program being caused by the simple issue of trust. “All their talk of caring for our human rights and welfare is shown to be a lie by this latest operation. We have never trusted them, but now we trust them even less,” said the human rights worker, who cannot be named for his safety.
The TPN spokesperson was more blunt. “People doubted the presence of top military who were proclaiming their victory in Puncak Jaya. The TNI social service campaign is merely a shield. It was evident from July 6, that (these) military forces ….suddenly stopped and all directed to Tingginambut to conduct military sweeps. All TNI Bakti activities stopped completely. Since July 6 to the 8th all military forces here, with full combat equipment, have surrounded the headquarters of TPN / OPM…. Tabuni is currently under siege”.
Reports of major abuse by Indonesian security forces in the West Papuan highlands are notoriously difficult to verify, as international human rights monitors and journalists are banned by the Indonesian government from travel to West Papua.
Please stay tuned to West Papua Media for more updates.
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- Statement of deep concern by Coalition of Human Rights Defenders in Papua (westpapuamedia.info)
- Leaked Letter Reveals Indon Army Scare Tactics (westpapuamedia.info)