Unrest fears as soldiers shot dead in West Papua
Deeply concerned ... Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, Greg Moriarty.
EIGHT soldiers were shot dead in the Indonesian province of West Papua on Thursday, allegedly by separatist rebels, in two attacks that threaten to dramatically escalate bloodshed in the restive region.
It's the most deadly attack against the police or military in more than two years. ''There has to be punitive action for what they have done,'' the Senior Security Minister, Djoko Suyanto, said.
Indonesian forces have long been accused of human rights abuses in West Papua and activists fear the latest incident may unleash a round of reprisals against separatists and civilians.
The shootings prompted the Australian ambassador to Indonesia, Greg Moriarty, to put out an unusual press release conveying ''deep concern'' at the killings and offering condolences to the soldiers' families.
''Such incidents only perpetuate the cycle of violence in the Papuan provinces. This is detrimental to the people of Papua and West Papua, who deserve a secure and prosperous future within the Indonesian nation,'' Mr Moriarty said.
Australia's oft-stated support for Indonesia's sovereignty over the region is sometimes doubted in Jakarta, and a Jakarta Post article on Friday, editorialised that armed separatists from the Free Papua Movement (OPM) were ''supported by elements from the West''.
The attacks that killed the soldiers were in Puncak Jaya, west of the capital, Jayapura.
In the first attack, a private was ambushed and killed and his senior officer injured at a remote guard post in the village of Tinggi Nambut about 9.30am local time on Thursday.
The second incident happened an hour later when seven soldiers from a 10-man patrol were shot dead in nearby Sinak as they travelled to pick up ''military communication devices'' from the airport, according to an army spokesman, Jansen Simanjuntak.