Three dead as Indonesian forces pursue rebel commander in Papua

Vastavam web: Two Papuan independence fighters and a third person have been killed during a week of gunbattles with security forces in the highlands of Indonesia’s remote Papua region, both sides in the conflict say. An Indonesian police and military operation is trying to capture Purom Wenda, a West Papua Liberation Army commander who has eluded Indonesia for 15 years but who authorities call a former petty criminal of “low intellectual level.” Villagers have fled into the jungle because of the fighting, which reports say has intensified in highlands districts for several months. The military said the man, a migrant from Sulawesi, was an innocent civilian.

An insurgency has simmered in the formerly Dutch-controlled Papua region since it became part of Indonesia more than half a century ago. “Our struggle in the jungle has been going for decades,” said Wenda’s statement. “Countless people have died for this struggle. Indonesia said that they have given us special autonomy, infrastructure, and other excuses. We do not want all that. We only want freedom.” Papua province military spokesman Col Muhammad Aidi said that Wenda forbade villagers from recovering the body of the man they shot on Saturday in an attempt to set a trap for security forces.