JAKARTA (Reuters) – Separatist rebels in Indonesia’s Papua region claimed on Sunday to have killed nine army personnel the day before after Jakarta did not respond to a request for negotiations, while the military said a soldier was killed during the attack on Saturday. .
Indonesian military spokesman Julius Widjojono said on Sunday that other soldiers had been dispersed to several locations to search for captured Susi Air pilot Philip Mertens, and that they were having difficulties making contact due to bad weather.
“As of 2:03 pm local time (0503 GMT), the information we had is dead. We have not received any more information because it is difficult to access the area, especially with unstable weather,” Julius said in response to a question about the weather. Greater numbers of victims.
Julius said the military would intensify the operation to rescue Mehrtens after they located the pilot.
He said that vagaries of the weather made these efforts difficult.
The New Zealand pilot was kidnapped by the West Papua National Liberation Army in February. The group initially demanded Jakarta recognize the region’s independence, but told Reuters this month it was ready to drop that demand and seek dialogue.
“We have asked the Indonesian and New Zealand governments to release the hostages through peaceful negotiations,” rebel spokesman Sippy Sambom said in a recorded message on Sunday.
“But the Indonesian army and police attacked civilians on March 23. Because of that, the TPNPB forces said they will retaliate and it has already begun,” Sambum said, adding that fighting continues on Sunday.
Papua’s military spokesman, Herman Taryaman, denied allegations of an attack in March on civilians, saying security forces were protecting civilians who had been driven out by the rebels.
Analysts say a low-level battle for independence from Indonesia has been going on for decades in the remote and resource-rich Papua region, with the conflict intensifying significantly in recent years.
The conflict began after a controversial 1969 UN-supervised vote, which saw the former Dutch territories placed under Indonesian control.
Additional reporting by Stanley Widianto, Gayatri Soroyo and Bernadette Cristina; By Bernadette Christina; Edited by William Mallard
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