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Indonesia’s Terror Travails in Papua

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

TracWatch a weekly review of Trac Terrorism a US based terrorism information portal has outlined details of ongoing confrontations between supporters of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) and the Indonesian armed forces in the past few months.

TracWatch of 19 April 2023 reports that making good on their threat against foreign pilots flying into Papua. According to local sources, the evacuation stemmed from rumors, stating an imminent military operation was to be conducted in the area against the Free Papua Movement (OPM).

OPM has long demanded independence from Indonesia and tensions between the militant group and the Indonesian government have been escalating since the 07 February destruction of a Susi Air plane, which also resulted in the kidnapping of its New Zealander pilot, Philip Mark Mehrtens. Threats and attacks against both foreigners and Indonesian security forces have continually increased in both frequency and intensity.

On 15 February 2023, OPM released a video and photos of Philips Max Mehrtens and in this video, the New Zealander pilot was shown being surrounded by a small group of fighters who appeared to be armed with a Pindad SS1-V1 rifle and two SS2-V1 assault rifles, one with a 40mm Pindad SPG1-V4 UBGL, while the other indigenous rebels appear to be armed with bow and arrows.

A week later on 21 February, a notable advancement in the number of fighters and weaponry was seen in a video circulating on social networks, depicting a much larger group of fighters, approximately 100, belonging to the Free Papua Movement (OPM), armed with an M1 Carbine rifle, a Pindad SS1-V1 rifle, homemade rifles (ghost guns), and a Pindad P1 pistol, among others.

By the beginning of April, OPM attacks noticeably escalated. Contrary to the 'short-circuit' claims by Indonesian authorities, on 11 April 2023, OPM released a video, claiming responsibility for the arson attack that took place two days earlier on a Regent office building located in Kimupugi Village, Kamu District, Dogiyai Regency, Central Papua. Again, the militants shown in the video appear to be armed with a Pindad SS1-V1 rifle, as well as craft-made (ghost gun) submachine guns and rifles.

While the military operation against OPM has garnered a few arrests, the CTO has ended very badly for the Indonesian military. Their attempt to rescue New Zealander pilot, Philip Mark Mehrtens on 15 April 2023 fell remarkably short. OPM militants ambushed the Indonesian Army, claiming to have killed 13 Indonesian soldiers during the ambush and capturing and executing 9 others.

Mehrtens is still being held captive by his OPM kidnappers and is said to be in declining health. [Based on report by TRAC Terrorism]


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