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Thousands flee in fear as TNI begin highlands reprisal offensive

March 5, 2013

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Thousands flee in fear as TNI begin highlands reprisal offensive

West Papua Media – February 28, 2013

Local communities around Sinak, Gurage, Mulia and Tingginambut in Puncak Jaya
regency have felt the first effects of Indonesian military reprisals, after
West Papuan independence guerrillas under General Goliat Tabuni confirmed that
they had killed eight Indonesian special forces soldiers and four non-Papuan
civilians on February 21 in two separate incidents.

The shootings were carried out after Kopassus officers continued to build
military posts on a local sacred burial site, despite being requested not to
by both community representatives and emissaries from the West Papua National
Liberation Army (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional Papua Barat-TPN-PB) under Tabuni.
TPN spokespeople have said that the shootings were done "to assert West Papuan
sovereignty against Indonesian colonial occupation", and to assert West Papuan
cultural rights to defend their customary practices against ongoing military

A spokesman for the Goliat Tabuni’s TPN-OPM command, Nikolas Tabuni, told West
Papua Media in a statement that the killings were not without cause.

"Prior to the incident TNI had wanted to make a military post in the region of
Tingginambut and the TPN OPM had sent a letter to the TNI asking them not to
go ahead with the military post construction at Tingginambut. As that is an
area of which the land is formally claimed to be owned by the TPN OPM, and as
it is also a sacred area under indigenous customary law of the indigenous
community of that area. However TNI disregarded the request (in principle) and
continued with the construction. As a result TPN OPM carried out the shooting
on 21 February," the statement read.

Nikolas Tabuni also denied statements from the Indonesian President and Police
that the shootings were connected with Indonesian election campaigns in Papua.
"This shooting had absolutely nothing to do with the election of the Bupati
(Regency leader) for the region of Ilaga in the Regency of Puncak Jaya in the
Province of Papua, and had nothing to do with the general election of the
Provincial Governor. The shooting was purely concerned with Papuan
independence and the activities of the TNI in West Papua."

Evidence of collective punishment emerges

Despite an effective information blockade imposed by thousands of Indonesian
army (TNI) troops and Police, and unchallenged by a compliant Jakarta-based
colonial media, detailed reports are beginning to filter through from
independent sources in the area of the military offensive, painting a vastly
different picture to that reported by Indonesian and international media since
the shooting of the Kopassus soldiers.

At least 1000 members of various Indonesian security forces are currently
occupying and laying siege to entire communities around Puncak Jaya, with
thousands more troops being sent in from other centres in Papua, according to
local church, human rights, and sources in contact with West Papua Media
stringers across the conflict area.

According to these sources, the villages of Tingginambut, Trugi and Nelekom
have been occupied by TNI forces since Sunday February 24, with villagers
being forced to give all their food and houses to soldiers, and being subject
to arbitrary and harsh interrogations. TPN sources have also stated that
troops are using the villages as strategic hamlets to prepare for a hunt and
destroy mission to flush out the forces of Tabuni, who have claimed they are
well prepared for guerrilla defence.

In Nambut and Gurake (Gurage) villages in Sinak District, security forces
began to carry out house to house sweeping operations on February 26, and in
villages in Tingginambut, Puncak Jaya. According to our sources, the TNI
Commander in the area has commanded "that the sweeping operation is to be
continued until the culprits from last Thursdays killings are arrested". The
TNI have stated to local people they "need to see 11 persons sentenced,"
according to the reliable source.

Two civilians were said to be arrested on February 27, according to Indonesian
military reports, however independent sources could not confirm if any other
civilians have been arrested.

As of February 26, at least 18 houses have been burned to the ground, 5 GIDI
churches razed, 2 schools and a library have been destroyed by the combined
Police/TNI forces in Tingginambut, according to reliable church sources who
have safely relayed data from witnesses to West Papua Media stringers.
Witnesses have also reported that soldiers are deliberately burning and
destroying food gardens and shooting livestock, including over one hundred
pigs. There are fears of a major humanitarian disaster unfolding with the
reports of the destruction of food gardens and livestock, an act of collective
punishment on a civilian population.

Thousands of people from the surrounding villages have fled to the high
mountains and according to church sources, the entire community populations
have fled throughout the area of Gurake, Sinak, Tinggi Neri, Trugi and
Nelekom. Exact numbers are not currently known but local sources indicate that
several thousand people, mainly subsistence farmers, live in the area.

Human rights workers have also reported from Mulia in Puncak Jaya that
townspeople are greeting news of the offensive with panic and preparing to

Reports are difficult to verify as the only media personnel allowed into the
operations area are those with approval from the Indonesian army, and very few
of these journalist have actually ventured into the area. Stringers for West
Papua Media in Puncak Jaya and the Baliem Valley have reported that
independent journalists and human rights workers have been prevented from
travelling into the area by a de facto Military Operations Area being applied
across the entire highlands, including the regional centre of Wamena.

Civilians are staying off the streets as reliable local sources report a
massive combat army and police show of force, including house to house
searches. On the morning of February 28, witnesses have reported to West Papua
Media stringers that 8 Brimob trucks have left Wamena heading to Puncak Jaya
this morning, with large numbers of troops patrolling the streets across
Wamena also..

Thousands more troops flooding in to attempt to destroy Tabuni’s TPN

Thousands of heavily armed combat soldiers from Battalions 751 (Jayapura), 753
(Nabire), and supported by the Wamena 756 Batallion, are reportedly being
flown into Tingginambut over the next few days from several centres across
Papua. They are joining together with over 1000 extra Brimob paramilitary
police (in addition to the at least 1000 Polda Papua police already in the
highlands), and allegedly several units of the notorious Australian-funded
Detachment 88 anti-terror commando, to hunt for Tabuni’s forces. Several media
reports in Indonesia are also claiming a Kostrad (Strategic Reserve) battalion
is being deployed from outside Papua, though this has not been independently

Local sources have reported that each TNI platoon is accompanied by a platoon
of police, as the operation is officially under control of the Police as a
"law enforcement" operation. However, the witnesses have reported that the TNI
are clearly in command. TNI spokespeople in Jakarta have told Indonesian media
outlets that there is no plan to increase non-organic troop presence in the
area, but local sources are reporting a vastly different story. West Papua
Media sources in Wamena observing the airport have confirmed that two TNI Puma
Helicopters are involved in the operation constantly ferrying troops between
Wamena and Tingginambut, and stopping only for refuelling and crew changes.
Three Hercules c130H aircraft have each made 3 drops to Wamena then the troops
have entered by road from Wamena. Observers in Nabire have also noted daily
departures of three trucks of troops from the notorious Battalion 753 Nabire,
to the west of the highlands to reinforce the offensive in Tingginambut.

Human rights and church sources in Puncak Jaya and internationally have
expressed deep concern about the potential for heavy civilian casualties to
occur with the intensified military campaign, given extra impetus after the
Indonesian President, General Susilo Bambang Yudoyhono, called for firm action
on Tabuni.

Multiple narratives from Jakarta

The exact circumstances of the deaths of the eight Kopassus special forces
soldiers are now mired in claim and counter-claim, with soldiers’ personal
accounts of the attack conflicting with the official narrative picked up by
Jakarta media. What is confirmed is that the eight commandos — Sertu (Chief
Sergeant) Udine, Sertu Frans, Sertu Romadhon, Pratu (Private 1st class)
Mustofa, Sertu Edy, Praka (Chief Private) Jojon, Praka Wempi and Sertu Mudin –
– were killed by a cascading attack led by guerrillas of Goliat Tabuni’s TPN
group as they went to the Sinak airstrip to collect cellular monitoring
equipment designed to track international phone communications in the area.

However, one survivor of the attack testified in the Jakarta Post that his
group was attacked by men, women and children all carrying spears, machetes
and knives. According to the TNI survivors as relayed to JP, the platoon of
Kopassus was unarmed at the time of the attack, which happened as the soldiers
were installing and moving communications monitoring equipment.

TPN forces also opened fire on a Puma helicopter that was evacuating the
wounded commandos, lightly injuring three helicopter crew.

West Papua Media sources have provided a highly credible and technical but
unconfirmed report that two "very large weapons" that were being moved into
Sinak, and went missing during the raid by TPN. According to our sources,
there is "extreme concern from the TNI around this particular issue."

"Apparently they have been trying to find out the whereabouts of these
weapons, which suggests they might be too heavy to quickly and easily move,"
explained the source. Further investigation is still required, but credible
observers in the area believe that these heavy weapons may be artillery pieces

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