Arrival of troops spread panic, say church personnel

Jubi, 23 August 2011
The dispatch of troops by air and land via Nabire has caused panic in Paniai, said a nun working for the Catholic Church in Paniai who did not want her name to be made public.   The people from Paniai had just returned home following a firefight between TPN/OPM fighters and the security forces but left their homes again when they saw heavily armed Brimob troops arriving in the town, she said.

A church official said that some of those who had fled after the shooting had not returned home and their present whereabouts were not known.  ‘We think that some of them have fled to far-away kampungs. and dont want to return to the town which is full of heavily armed troops whose presence is very frightening,’ the official said.   They would only come back when the town had been cleared of the troops.   The church official said they were refusing to come back because they knew that the fighting had been a put-up job and they didn’t want to become casualties.

‘They have very good reason to be afraid,’ the official said, ‘because they know that the security forces have arrested a number of school children from the SMP and SMA [lower and upper middle schools] as well as some other young people. These youngsters were interrogated then ordered to do push-ups.   They were only released, after we went to the police station and asked for them to be released.’

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