Indonesian army units torch houses, shoot villager, during Wamena sweep operation

by West Papua Media

November 7, 2012

Credible Reports have again emerged detailing a rampage by troops from the notorious Indonesian Army (TNI) Battalion 756, who have reportedly run amok burning houses and beating up Papuan civilians, during a recent security sweep against Papuan civil society activists.

At 2pm local time on November 4, a joint force of 756 BTn troops, together with Brimob paramilitary police units and troops described as “non-organic special forces” – most likely troops from the Australian-supported Detachment 88 counter-terror unit – conducted a sweep of the houses behind the New Jibama market in Wamena town. The troops laid siege to a group of houses and started shooting at the houses and directly at residents, according to witnesses interviewed by local human rights sources.

One person was reportedly seriously injured by gunshot wounds sustained during the attack, and many more people received major burn injuries after being caught in three houses that were torched by the joint force. Exact casualty figures have been unable to be ascertained and the gunshot victim has yet to be identified, however family members confirmed that several people had been treated at the Wamena hospital for their injuries.

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Family members of those targeted, spoken to by stringers for West Papua Media, have fled Wamena after their houses were set on fire by the joint force. According to local sources, they fled to the forest outside Wamena, and are too scared to return for fear of being shot by Indonesian security force. Those fleeing are being forced to survive on the resources in the forest, as the security presence makes in difficult to return home, according to our sources.

Local human rights activists have also claimed that people in Wamena are confused over the reason behind the attack and the arson, and have questioned who has commanded the attack. “What forces are behind this? This case is not obvious, but the combined forces commit arson and loot residents’ property in the home of all three victims,” said the activist.

The behaviour of security forces against Papuans “is very exaggerated beyond procedures that should be enforced under applicable human rights law in Indonesia and Internationally,” he continued.

On june 7, members of Battalion 756 went on another rampage of arson, looting, shootings and beatings after one of their members was killed after an accident that seriously injured a young boy. In recent months, Detachment 88 troops have also led an intensifying and brutal crackdown on activists from the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), after claims of their involvement in a bombing campaign.

Many credible observers have cast doubt on the motivations of the security forces in this crackdown, accusing them of engineering a situation to criminalise legitimate peaceful free expression.

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