Indonesia blames civilian deaths on troops

Stanley Widianto
·1-min read

Indonesia's military has named nine soldiers as suspects in the killing in April of two civilians in the country's Papua region, as part of a state probe into violence.

The military is conducting an internal investigation as part of a fact-finding mission that started in October into several incidents in the Intan Jaya district - an area beset by separatist conflict - including the fatal shooting of a Christian pastor in September.

Lieutenant General Dodik Wijanarko in a statement said the nine soldiers had committed "acts beyond the limits of propriety" while interrogating two Papuans suspected of being separatist rebels.

The two Papuans later died and the suspects burned their bodies and threw their ashes into a river, according to the military.

West Papua, the easternmost region of the archipelago nation, has been riven by separatist conflict since the former Dutch colony was incorporated into Indonesia, following a controversial United Nations-backed referendum in 1969.

Dodik said the suspects faced a maximum 12 years in prison if found guilty.

Usman Hamid, director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said the admission by the military that its personnel may have engaged in illegal acts in Papua was rare, although he cast doubt over its sincerity.

Colonel Gusti Nyoman Suriastawa, a military spokesman in Papua, said there was "no tolerance for soldiers who commit these violations".

Reuters was unable to immediately reach the victims' families for comment.

In September, a Christian pastor, Yeremia Zanambani, was fatally shot in the same region. Indonesia's military has denied allegations by church groups that soldiers were responsible.

Mahfud MD, Indonesia's chief security minister, said in October that state forces or "a third party" may have been involved.