JAYAPURA, Indonesia – Gunmen killed three people in an attack Monday at an airport in Indonesia’s easternmost Papua that targeted a light plane transporting paramilitary police, the military said.
Col. Muhammad Aidi, the army’s spokesman in Papua province, said three civilians were killed and two people, including the pilot, were injured in the attack, which occurred after the plane landed at Kenyam airport in remote Nduga district.
The dead civilians were migrant traders from South Sulawesi province, including a husband and wife, who were shot and stabbed as the attackers fled the airport, Aidi said.
A pro-independence insurgency has simmered in the formerly Dutch-controlled Papua region since it was annexed by Indonesia in 1963.
Under Indonesian rule, indigenous Papuans have been largely shut out of their region’s economic activity, which is dominated by extraction of natural resources by Indonesian and foreign companies including the giant U.S.-owned Grasberg gold and copper mine.
Aidi said the chartered Twin Otter plane was transporting paramilitary police from the highlands town of Wamena to Nduga to provide security during regional elections on Wednesday.
He said the assailants were members of the “Armed Civilians Criminal Group” that had previously shot dead a worker on the trans-Papua highway project. Indonesia’s police and military frequently blame attacks in Papua on criminals rather than admitting an insurgency.