JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Papuan leaders have protested an Indonesian military and police operation against separatists they say endangered the lives of villagers in the remote easternmost province.
Yairus Gwijangge, head of the Nduga region, said security forces fired on Alguru village with helicopter sorties on Wednesday, attempting to root out independence fighters they believed were based there.
"Thank God there was no reports of casualties, but we regret that they did not warn us before launching the attacks," Gwijangge told The Associated Press.
"It caused panic among villagers," he said, adding he had complained to both the army and police paramilitary forces. "The forces have to be withdrawn," he said.
Yunus Wonda, the head of Papua province's parliament, condemned the operation and on Friday called on security forces to leave the occupied village. Villagers were "traumatized," he said.
An Amnesty International investigation released earlier this month said Indonesia's police and military are responsible for at least 95 unlawful killings in Papua and West Papua provinces since 2010, including targeted slayings of activists.
A local police chief, Yan Pieter Reba, said security forces were responding to attacks last month by gunmen that killed paramilitary police and civilians.
"These conditions forced police to take law enforcement measures, hunting down and arresting the perpetrators," he said.
He denied local media reports that four helicopters were used in the operation. The helicopter sorties were "clearing a path" for delivery of supplies to forces, he said.
A pro-independence insurgency has simmered in the formerly Dutch-controlled region since it was annexed by Indonesia in 1963.
Indonesian rule has been frequently brutal, and indigenous Papuans, largely shut out of their region's economy, are poorer, sicker and more likely to die young than people elsewhere in Indonesia.
Gwijangge's deputy, Wentius Nimiangge, said the attack was unjustified and casualties were unknown because villagers had fled, state news agency Antara reported.