Unidentified separatist fighters ambushed a group of Indonesian soldiers guarding a highway construction project in the Nduga district of Papua province on the morning (local time) of Thursday, March 7. At least three soldiers and one rebel were killed in the gun fight near the village of Yigi. Military officials believe that another seven to ten separatist fighters may have also died in the engagement. As of March 7, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the military has blamed the National Liberation Army of West Papua (TPNPB). Heightened security measures and additional attacks are possible throughout Papua province in the near term.
The attack comes days after the Indonesian military deployed 600 additional soldiers into Papua province to provide security for the Trans-Papua highway. Fighting between the TPNPB and security forces has escalated in recent months after the group claimed responsibility for killing 16 government-linked workers in the province in December 2018. At least 31 people have died in the clashes and local activists claim that civilians have also been killed during security operations. TPNPB fighters have engaged in an ongoing low-level guerrilla rebellion since Indonesian independence in the 1960s.
Individuals in Indonesia are advised to remain vigilant and exercise caution when traveling to Papua and West Papua, adhere to instructions issued by local authorities (e.g. travel permits) and home governments, and avoid all public demonstrations. Travel to Papua and West Papua requires a permit and many Western governments advise against nonessential travel the provinces due to the threat of civil unrest and violence.
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