The Indonesian Army reported on Friday that alleged separatist rebels have killed five civilians in recent episodes of violence in the Indonesian province of Papua.
As explained by the regional military spokesman, Colonel I Gusti Ngurah Suriastawa, members of the Free Papua Movement on Thursday fired at a truck fleeing its ambush in the Yahukimo district, killing five bystanders.
Suriastawa has detailed that the truck was carrying materials for the construction of a bridge when it was ambushed by the rebels.
“These people are terrorists,” he added, to assert that the rebels “do not want Papua to develop and prosper and target civilians as victims.”
The Indonesian government designated separatist insurgents as terrorists in April after an army general was killed in a rebel ambush. The assassination prompted the president, Joko Widodo, to order an offensive against the separatist group.
The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement, claimed responsibility for the murder.
A separatist insurgency has existed in Papua since the 1960s, but deadly clashes between rebels and government security forces have escalated in recent years.
Government security forces have been accused of human rights abuses in Papua, a primarily Melanesian region that was incorporated into Indonesia in a UN-administered vote that rights groups and pro-independence activists criticized as a sham.
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