Sat, 05 Apr 2003

Army to 'enforce law' after Papua arms raid

Nethy Dharma Somba and Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Jayapura

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu ordered the military in Papua to quell the Free Papua Movement (OPM), which was blamed for a deadly burglary at the Jayawijaya military district arsenal early on Friday.

He also instructed a thorough investigation into the alleged involvement of the military district's personnel in the arms theft.

"The military in Papua must hunt the rebels until they are captured and quell the separatist movement which has weakened the government. The military must enforce the law in the province," he said after Friday prayers.

Ryamizard expressed regret that the separatist movement in Papua had been "intensifying their activities" following the pullout in February of Army's Special Force (Kopassus) personnel.

At least three, including two Army soldiers, were killed in a gunfight when at least 15 suspected OPM members broke into an Army arsenal in Jayawijaya, Papua.

First Lt. A. Napitupulu and First Sgt. Ruben Lena were killed in Friday's clash and their bodies were taken to the Wamena General Hospital, while one rebel, identified as Islae Murib, was handed over to the local people for burial.

The spokesman for the Trikora Military Command overseeing Papua, Maj. E. Situmorang, told The Jakarta Post by telephone that the rebels succeeded in taking 13 M-16 rifles, 13 SP-1 rifles, three PM rifles, along with thousands of rounds of ammunition.

He explained that the incident began when the two military personnel became suspicious during an electrical blackout in the Jayawijaya Military District headquarters' arsenal at 1:30 a.m. local time.

"The two on-duty officers went to guard the arsenal and were greeted with several rounds fired by the thieves, leaving both dead. Several other officers ran to the site and were involved in a gun battle with the rebels who later fled to the adjacent forest area," he said, adding that Murib was killed and another rebel was wounded in the clash.

"Our personnel also found three jackets, two bags of medicine, two machetes and 10 spent M-16 shells," he said.

Situmorang said the local military would first investigate the military district's personnel who were suspected of aiding and abetting the burglary.

"It would be impossible for the rebels to cut off the electricity and break into the arsenal, unless they were in collusion with the local military personnel," he said.

Trikora Military Command Chief Brig. Gen. Nurdin Zainal, who flew in to Jayawijaya shortly after receiving the report, has ordered the military in the regency to hunt for the rebels.

He said he was considering a deployment of more combat personnel to sweep the forest areas where the rebels were believed to be holed up.

Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsuddin, spokesman for the Indonesian Military (TNI), said the Trikora Military Command would set up a team to carry out the investigation.

"Since the attackers were armed, we believe that OPM members were responsible for the break in. But we (the TNI) are not ruling out the possibility of whether some of our personnel were also involved in the incident," Sjafrie said.