Indonesian soldiers kill Papuan separatist

Members of the Indonesian navy’s marine patrol unit demonstrate their skills during a recent simulated anti-terror exercise in East Java. (AFP)
Updated 02 December 2019

Indonesian soldiers kill Papuan separatist

  • Exchange of fire followed attack on army helicopter in restive province

JAKARTA: Indonesian soldiers shot dead a separatist rebel in the restive province of Papua after an attack on an army helicopter that sparked an exchange of gunfire, the military said on Saturday.

Security has been heightened across the province, where a sporadic, low-level insurgency has simmered for decades.

Local military spokesman Dax Sianturi told Arab News that separatist rebels missed the helicopter, which had five people on board.

But the attack forced the helicopter, which was about to land at an airfield in the Mugi district in Nduga regency, to return to its base in Mimika regency, he said.

“The soldiers who were guarding the landing site were involved in a 15-minute exchange of gunfire,” he said, adding that there were no army casualties.

The military said the attackers are linked to the separatist Free Papua Organization, which has been behind a series of shootings targeting security forces in the region.

Last December, separatist gunmen in Nduga killed 19 construction workers who were building bridges as part of the Trans-Papua Highway, one of President Joko Widodo’s flagship infrastructure projects.

FASTFACTS

• Papua, the western part of the island of New Guinea, declared itself independent from Dutch colonial rule on Dec. 1, 1961.

• Indonesia officially took over the region in 1969 after a UN-backed ballot widely seen as a sham.

• Indonesia keeps a tight grip on resource-rich Papua, which is one of the country’s poorest regions.

Papua police chief Paulus Waterpauw said his office had deployed 3,000 personnel to intensify patrols, including in mountainous strongholds of separatist groups.

Pro-independence leader Markus Haluk told Arab News that his group, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, had called for “recovery prayers” on Dec. 1, citing dozens of deaths from recent unrest in the region.

Mass protests and unrest between August and September led to the killing of more than 30 people and renewed calls for an independence referendum.

“We’ll be pressing ahead with fighting for our right to self-determination through a referendum for Papuan independence,” said Haluk.

Papua, the western part of the island of New Guinea, declared itself independent from Dutch colonial rule on Dec. 1, 1961.

But Indonesia officially took over the region in 1969 after a UN-backed ballot widely seen as a sham.

Jakarta keeps a tight grip on resource-rich Papua, which is one of the country’s poorest regions.


‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Daudzai

Updated 43 min 12 sec ago

‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Daudzai

  • Pakistan played positive role in US-Taliban peace talks, says diplomat

PESHAWAR: Afghanistan’s newly appointed special envoy for Pakistan has had put “mending political relations” between the two estranged nations as one of his top priorities.

Mohammed Umer Daudzai, on Tuesday said that his primary focus would be to ensure lasting peace in Afghanistan and maintain strong ties with Pakistan, especially after Islamabad’s key role in the Afghan peace process earlier this year.

In an exclusive interview, the diplomat told Arab News: “Two areas have been identified to focus on with renewed vigor, such as lasting peace in Afghanistan and cementing Pak-Afghan bilateral ties in economic, social, political and other areas.”

In order to achieve these aims, he said, efforts would be intensified “to mend political relations” between the neighboring countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,600-kilometer porous border and have been at odds for years. Bonds between them have been particularly strained due to a deep mistrust and allegations of cross-border infiltration by militants.

Kabul has blamed Islamabad for harboring Taliban leaders after they were ousted from power in 2001. But Pakistan has denied the allegations and, instead, accused Kabul of providing refuge to anti-Pakistan militants – a claim rejected by Afghanistan.

Daudzai said his immediate priority would be to focus on “political reconciliation” between the two countries, especially in the backdrop of a historic peace agreement signed in February this year when Pakistan played a crucial role in facilitating a troop withdrawal deal between the US and the Taliban to end the decades-old Afghan conflict. “Afghanistan needs political reconciliation which the Afghan government has already been working on to achieve bottom-up harmony,” he added.

Daudzai’s appointment Monday by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani took place days after Islamabad chose Mohammed Sadiq as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special representative for Afghanistan.

Reiterating the need to maintain strong bilateral ties with all of its neighbors, Daudzai said Pakistan’s role was of paramount importance to Afghanistan.

“Pakistan has a positive role in the US-Taliban peace talks, and now Islamabad could play a highly significant role in the imminent intra-Afghan talks. I will explore all options for a level-playing field for the success of all these initiatives,” he said, referring in part to crucial peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban which were delayed due to a stalemate in a prisoner exchange program – a key condition of the Feb. 29 peace deal.

Under the agreement, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and around 1,000 government prisoners were to be freed by March 10. So far, Afghanistan has released 3,000 prisoners, while the Taliban have freed 500. Daudzai said that while dates had yet to be finalized, the intra-Afghan dialogue could begin “within weeks.”

He added: “A date for intra-Afghan talks hasn’t been identified yet because there is a stalemate on prisoners’ release. But I am sure they (the talks) will be kicked off within weeks.”

Experts say Daudzai’s appointment could give “fresh momentum” to the stalled process and revitalize ties between the two estranged neighbors.

“Mohammed Sadiq’s appointment...could lead Kabul-Islamabad to a close liaison and better coordination,” Irfanullah Khan, an MPhil scholar and expert on Afghan affairs, told Arab News.

Daudzai said that he would be visiting Islamabad to kickstart the process as soon as the coronavirus disease-related travel restrictions were eased.

Prior to being appointed as the special envoy, he had served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan from April 2011 to August 2013.

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