AYAPURA, INDONESIA (AFP) – Separatists in Indonesia’s Papua province took responsibility on Friday for the killing of eight technicians as they repaired a telecommunications mast in a remote area.
Gunmen in the mountainous district stormed the tower belonging to Telkomsel, a major state-backed telecoms company, on Wednesday, according to the military.
Rebels in Papua, who have waged a fierce insurgency against Indonesian security forces for decades, have stepped up attacks recently, targetting workers they accuse of links to the state.
During the latest assault, one technician managed to escape and raise the alarm with authorities as his colleagues came under fire, said Papua military spokesman Aqsha Erlangga.
“This is such an extraordinary crime,” he said in a statement.
Police had now taken over the investigation and a hunt was underway for the attackers, he said. Efforts to evacuate victims’ bodies by helicopter from the remote site on Thursday had been hampered by poor weather, Erlangga said.
The West Papua National Liberation Army, the military wing of Papua’s main separatist group, claimed responsibility, saying they had previously warned civilians to leave the area they described as a “war zone”.