Security forces in Indonesia’s eastern province of Papua are hunting for separatist fighters suspected of killing at least 19 workers building a bridge in the region, a military spokesman said on Wednesday.
The killing of the workers is one of the worst outbreaks of violence in years in Papua, home to a simmering separatist conflict since it was incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticised UN-backed referendum in 1969.
Colonel Muhammad Aidi said the number of workers killed in the attack had been revised down to 19 from 24, based on the latest accounts from four survivors.
The survivors were followed by separatist fighters to a military post where a soldier was killed in a gunfight, Aidi said by telephone from Papua.
“The TNI (Indonesian military) post was attacked on Monday morning by a significant number of the armed group using military grade weapons, as well as spears and arrows,” he said.
Aidi said on Tuesday a construction worker who took a photograph of separatists celebrating what they consider their independence day appears to have sparked the killings.