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Separatist fighters in Papua region threatened to kill kidnapped pilot.
Members of West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) – military wing of Free Papua Organisation – 26 May threatened to kill captured New Zealand pilot Philip Mehrtens unless outside powers engage in dialogue on Papua’s independence within two months; Mehrtens was taken hostage by group in Feb in remote, mountainous regency of Nduga, Papua province.
Separatist fighters in Papua region killed four Indonesian soldiers amid operation to liberate kidnapped New Zealand pilot.
Separatists launched deadly ambush on soldiers in Papua. Members of West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) – military wing of Free Papua Organisation – 16 April claimed ambush killed nine soldiers in remote, mountainous regency of Nduga, Papua province, where group in Feb kidnapped New Zealand pilot Philip Mehrtens. Indonesian armed forces 20 April confirmed that separatist attack on 36 military personnel searching for Mehrtens had killed four soldiers and wounded five, with one unaccounted for. Amnesty International 18 April expressed concern that military had raised operational status in Nduga to “combat alert”, citing heightened safety risks for civilians and pilot; Amnesty noted that “the potential for human rights violations with fatalities is also getting bigger”. In video released by TPNPB in late April, Mehrtens confirmed “I’m still alive – I am healthy”; TPNPB urged New Zealand to mediate and demanded security forces cease operations in region.
Security forces killed suspected jihadists in shootout in Sumatra. Counter-terrorism police 12 April killed two suspected militants of outlawed al-Qaeda-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah in gunfire exchange in Lampung province in southern Sumatra Island, part of broader crackdown on group amid reports that it is training and recruiting new members.
Separatist fighters in Papua region kidnapped New Zealand pilot, demanding govt recognise region’s independence.
Members of West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) – military wing of Free Papua Organisation – 7 Feb took hostage New Zealand national and Susi Air pilot Philip Mehrtens in Paro District of Nduga regency, Papua region, demanding govt recognise Papua’s independence in return for his release. TPNPB 9 Feb claimed it sought to bring “ongoing state of human suffering and war in West Papua to the attention of the international media and world community” and reiterated demands, including that foreign govts cease training and arming Indonesian security forces. Reports during month suggested dialogue was under way to secure Mehrtens’ release; Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD 28 Feb said security forces had surrounded hostage takers but would refrain from action that could endanger pilot’s life.
Armed separatists launched deadly attack in Papua region, killing at least nine. Police in Papua’s provincial capital of Jayapura 16 July said armed separatists same day attacked civilians in Nogolait village, Nduga highland area, killing at least nine and injuring one, marking one of deadliest attacks in recent years. Military wing of Free Papua Organisation, West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), 18 July claimed responsibility for attack, accusing targets of being govt spies. Earlier, parliament 14 July ratified legislation to divide Papua into five separate provinces, adding three to existing Papua and West Papua regions, which many locals see as govt attempt to further assert control over region. Police 13-14 July reportedly arrested over 60 protesters demonstrating against law in provincial capital Jayapura and national capital Jakarta.
Separatist violence peaked in Papua, with over a dozen killed, Rohingya refugees landed in Aceh, and counter- terrorism operations continued. Separatists launched several deadly attacks in Papua province during month. Notably, in one of deadliest attacks in Papua in recent years, separatists 4 March killed eight technicians working on telecommunications tower in Puncak district; 3 March launched attack on military post in Dambet village, also in Puncak, injuring one soldier. In statement sent to Associated Press 4 March, separatists claimed both attacks, said they had warned civilians to leave area. Armed insurgents 26 March also attacked military post in Nduga regency, killing two marines and injuring at least six; commander of separatist armed group West Papua National Liberation Army in Nduga, Egianus Kogeya, next day claimed responsibility. Separatists also claimed killing soldier and his wife in Elelim village in Yalimo district 31 March. Separately, security forces 30 March killed separatist leader, Toni Tabuni, who was reportedly resisting arrest in Nabire district. Demonstrators protesting against planned administrative reforms 15 March clashed with police in Yahukimo district, Papua province, which left two dead. Army 1 March said it was investigating 22 Feb death of 12-year old boy reportedly at hands of soldiers in Sinak district, Papua province; Amnesty International 4 March called for independent investigation, echoing demands from human rights advocates since late Feb. Govt 2 March dismissed call from UN experts for “urgent humanitarian access to the [Papua] region…and independent investigations into abuses against the indigenous peoples”. In Central Java, counter-terrorism police 9 March killed doctor, allegedly connected to banned Jemaah Islamiyah militant group, who reportedly resisted arrest in Sukoharjo district, Central Java. Police said boat carrying over 100 Rohingya refugees from Bangladeshi camps arrived in Aceh, westernmost province, on 6 March.
West Papua Liberation Army launched deadliest attack on military this year, while security forces killed East Indonesia Mujahideen militant group leader. In West Papua province, dozens of militants from separatist armed group West Papua Liberation Army 2 Sept attacked military post in Kisor village in Maybrat district, killing four soldiers and injuring two in deadliest attack in region this year; group same day claimed responsibility for attack. Security forces subsequently arrested two suspects and 5 Sept reportedly engaged in gunfight with group in Maybart’s East Aifat sub-district. In Papua province, West Papua National Liberation Army 26 Sept reportedly killed member of Mobile Brigade forces in Kiwirok, Pegunungan Bintang regency, in shootout that injured two others. International rights group TAPOL 16 Sept published report accusing govt of using COVID-19 as pretext to crackdown on Papuan civil society groups and human rights defenders. UN Special Rapporteur on Situation of Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor 20 Sept urged govt to provide adequate medical care to imprisoned pro-independence Papuan activist Victor Yeimo, who was arrested in May 2021, amid reports of his deteriorating health. Separately, security forces 18 Sept killed leader of Islamic State-affiliated East Indonesia Mujahideen militant group and another militant in shootout on Sulawesi island.
Parliament renewed Special Autonomy Law for Papua, sparking protests that led to dozens of arrests. Parliament 15 July extended by 20 years Special Autonomy Law for Papua and West Papua provinces first adopted in 2001; international rights groups TAPOL and CIVICUS 16 July said parliament amended 18 articles, added two, including on ability of central govt to create new regencies and districts, and omitted provision granting right to form local political parties. Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian same day said: “We hope the law will accelerate development in Papua”, but law’s opponents claimed it increases Jakarta’s control over region and criticised central govt for lack of consultation. Law sparked series of protests. Authorities 14 July arrested 23 students protesting law in Papua province’s capital Jayapura; 15 July arrested 40 protesters at rally in front of House of Representatives in capital Jakarta. In West Papua province, authorities 15 July arrested 20 protesters in Kaimana town, while reportedly blocking protest in Manokwari town; 19 July arrested 36 protesters in Sorong town. Papuan People’s Assembly 20 July filed constitutional challenge against law.
Low-level armed violence persisted in Papua amid arrests of pro-independence activists; concerns rose about spread of COVID-19. United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) leader Benny Wenda 2 June said govt had cut off internet in Papua to “conceal its crackdown on the peaceful liberation movement”, also said ULMWP leader in hiding and two of his relatives had been arrested. In Papua province, low-level armed violence continued. In Ilaga district, Puncak regency, unknown armed assailants 3 June killed construction worker near Kibogolome village, same day killed three people and injured three others in Nipuralome village. NGO International Coalition for Papua 24 June reported that military 4 June killed indigenous Papuan in Wamena town, Jayawijaya regency. Authorities 25 June reported that dozens of armed assailants previous day opened fire on construction workers in central Yahukimo regency, killing at least four people; separatist armed group West Papua Liberation Army claimed responsibility for killings. Arrests of activists continued. In Merauke district, authorities 9 June arrested Manuel Metemko, pro-independence activist from NGO West Papua National Committee (KNPB), for allegedly spreading fake news on Facebook about Catholic Church leaders; Metemko faces charges under Electronic Information and Transaction Law which carries up to six years imprisonment. Police 18 June also reportedly arrested 32 members of NGO West Papua National Committee in Napua district, Jayawijaya; all detainees released next day. Amid rumours of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination plans, protesters 27 June demonstrated against alleged programme at Freeport mine in Tembaggapura district, Mimika regency; authorities reportedly violently dispersed protesters, leaving one injured, and arrested 20. Localised violence erupted in Elelim district as pro-regent supporters 29 June set fire to govt offices and residential buildings, and blocked roads, reportedly in protest at Constitutional Court’s decision requesting new local polls and preventing current regent from running in regional election. Meanwhile, Indonesian Red Cross 29 June said surge in COVID-19 cases across country had left Indonesia “on the edge of a COVID-19 catastrophe”. U.S. and Indonesia 25 June agreed plans for maritime training centre on Indonesia’s Batam Island in Singapore Strait (see South China Sea).
Following series of violent attacks, authorities signalled major crackdown on Papuan separatists with deployment of more military troops to country’s easternmost region. Following last month’s series of deadly attacks in Papua’s Puncak district, and designation of Papuan armed groups as “terrorists”, military 6 May announced deployment of 400 additional troops to Papua; United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) leader Benny Wenda 4 May claimed deployment was part of “biggest military operation in West Papua since the late 1970s” amid reports of internet shutdown and displacement of locals. Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD 19 May said armed assailants previous day killed two Indonesian soldiers in Dekai district in Yahukimo regency and injured four others in separate attack in Serambakon district in Bintang regency. Police 9 May arrested spokesperson for West Papua National Committee Victor Yeimo in Papua’s provincial capital Jayapura for his alleged role in August 2019 protests and prior statement calling for referendum on independence; NGO Human Rights Watch 12 May called on authorities to “drop politically motivated treason charges and unconditionally release” Yeimo; over 30 civil society groups, including Amnesty International, 19 May also demanded his immediate release.
Amid series of deadly attacks in Papua’s Puncak district, govt designated Papuan separatist armed groups as “terrorists”. Armed assailants 8-9 April killed two teachers and set on fire three schools in Juluokma village in Beoga sub-district, Puncak district; authorities said attackers belonged to separatist armed group West Papua Liberation Army. Authorities 14-15 April evacuated 35 civilians, including teachers and health workers, from Beoga to Timika city, Mimika district, while security forces launched Operation Nemangkawi to find those responsible for violence. In subsequent days, suspected armed separatists 25-26 April killedregional intelligence officer Brigadier General I Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha during shoot-out in Puncak district; President Joko Widodo 26 April declared “there is no place for armed groups in Papua” and ordered arrests of all separatists. Govt 29 April announcedcategorisation of “organisations and people in Papua who commit mass violence” as “terrorists”; NGO Amnesty International next day expressed concern that terrorist designation “only increases the potential for even further human rights violations.”
Suspected Islamist militants attacked church in Sulawesi while govt considered terrorist designation for West Papua separatist armed groups. In South Sulawesi province, suspected Islamic State-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) newlywed suicide bombers 28 March attacked Catholic church in Makassar city, leaving at least 19 injured and two assailants dead. President Widodo same day “strongly condemned this act of terror” and urged people to stay calm, as govt would ensure “safety to worship”; in response, police 29 March arrested dozen across several locations, including in South Sulawesi, West Nusa Tenggara and Banten provinces. In Papua province, international NGO Coalition for Papua 7 March reported that security forces previous day killed Indigenous Papuan teenager in Puyagia village, Intan Jaya, marking fifth such case since Jan and causing unknown number of civilians to flee. National Counterterrorism Agency chief Inspector General Boy Rafli Amar 22 March told House of Representatives govt ministries and agencies were discussing possibility of labelling armed groups affiliated with separatist political umbrella, Free Papua Movement, as terrorist organisations; NGO Amnesty International next day denounced potential move as “further justification for the limitation of Papuan’s freedom of speech and assembly”.
Tensions persisted in Papua, while authorities banned hardline group Islamic Defenders Front. UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights 1 Dec called for full investigation into escalating violence against civilians and human rights defenders in Papua. Police same day reportedly arrested 15 demonstrators from Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua during protest in Sinjai, South Sulawesi province. United Liberation Movement for West Papua’s leader Benny Wenda 1 Dec announced establishment of provisional govt in exile in UK, with party declaring him interim president; govt called Wenda’s announcement “small-scale treason”, while West Papua Liberation Army and civilian faction West Papua National Committee early Dec both rejected declaration. In Papua province’s Merauke regency, security forces early to mid-Dec reportedly raided West Papua National Committee offices, and arrested 14 members on unknown charges, leaving several injured. Military police 25 Dec named nine soldiers in case pertaining to alleged torture to death of two civilians in Intan Jaya regency in April. Meanwhile, police 7 Dec killed six bodyguards of cleric Rizieq Shihab, leader of hardline group Islamic Defenders Front, after they allegedly attacked officers on outskirts of capital Jakarta; authorities 12 Dec arrested Rizieq for allegedly inciting people to breach COVID-19 regulations; govt 30 Dec banned Islamic Defenders Front referring to terrorism links and disturbance to public order.
Suspected jihadist group carried out deadly attack in Central Sulawesi while UN warned of escalating violence in Papua in past months. In Central Sulawesi province, suspected jihadist armed group East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) 27 Nov killed four civilians and burned down six houses, including Christian place of worship, in Lembantongoa village, Sigi regency; around 150 families reportedly fled to neighbouring village amid continued search for perpetrators; President Widodo 30 Nov said killings were “beyond the limits of humanity”. Previously, police 17 Nov announced killing of two suspected jihadists in Parigi Mutong regency, Central Sulawesi. Meanwhile, UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights 30 Nov warned of escalating violence in past weeks and months in Papua and West Papua provinces and risks of renewed tensions, notably ahead of 1 Dec West Papuan independence day; raised case of 22 Nov police shootout which killed one teenager and injured another on Limbaga mountain, Gome district, Papua province; also noted that security forces 17 Nov reportedly detained 84 people in Merauke Regency, Papua province, ahead of public consultation on implementation of Special Autonomy Law.
Amid ongoing security operations, low-level violence continued in Papua, while large-scale demonstrations erupted after govt passed controversial job creation law. In Intan Jaya regency, Papua province, armed separatist group West Papua Liberation Army (WPLA) 9 Oct attacked govt investigative team, leaving two injured; WPLA next day rejected Jakarta-mandated team tasked to lead inquiry into Sept killings and called instead for UN investigation. Investigative team 23 Oct reported finding evidence that security forces were involved in last month’s killing of local pastor in Intan Jaya. During joint military-police operation in Jalae village in Intan Jaya, security forces 26 Oct shot dead local resident; military alleged man belonged to armed group, while Timika diocese 27 Oct refuted claim. As students protested against Special Autonomy law in Papua region in regional capital Jayapura, security forces 27 Oct allegedly opened fire to disperse protesters; a dozen students reportedly arrested. In Aceh province, unidentified assailants 23 Oct shot dead two fishermen near Simeulue island. Series of demonstrations held throughout month in capital Jakarta and other major cities following passage of controversial job creation bill on 5 Oct; demonstrators fear law will weaken labour protections and environmental regulations. Street clashes between law enforcement and protesters 5-9 Oct led to nearly 4,000 protesters arrested and over 100 protesters injured.
Armed separatists led series of attacks on military in Papua. In Papua province, armed separatist group West Papua Liberation Army (WPLA) 5 Sept claimed killing of eight soldiers in Nduga regency, while series of deadly attacks took place in Intan Jaya regency. Notably, in Intan Jaya’s Sugapa district, WPLA 14 Sept shot and injured two civilians claiming they were intelligence officers, and military reported armed group 17 Sept killed one soldier and one civilian; in Hitadipa district, WPLA 19 Sept killed one soldier, and shortly after military allegedly shot and killed pastor, local army commander denied involvement and blamed WPLA. In Nabire regency, thousands 24 Sept took to streets protesting against extension of Papua special autonomy status set to expire in 2021; police briefly arrested over 150 demonstrators citing COVID-19 restrictions. In provincial capital Jayapura, hundreds of students 28 Sept also protested against extension of special autonomy status; police fired warning shots and tear gas to disperse protesters. In speech to UN General Assembly, Vanuatu PM Loughman 26 Sept said “the indigenous people of West Papua continue to suffer from human rights abuses”, arguing there had been “little progress” in addressing violations; Indonesia rebuked speech saying it would defend itself from “any advocacy of separatism under the guise of artificial human rights concerns” and that Papua and West Papua’s status as part of Indonesia was “final”. In Aceh, police reported 297 Rohingya refugees believed to have been at sea for several months 7 Sept moored at Ujong Blang beach, near Lhokseumawe city.
Security forces continued operations against suspected separatists in Papua while Islamic militant group launched attacks in Central Sulawesi. In Papua province, security forces 16 Aug raided house in Mimika, killing senior WPLA commander Hengkin Wanmang; WPLA 17 Aug said group would retaliate; WPLA subsequently claimed killing several security force members. Papuan activists 15 Aug demonstrated in several provinces against 1962 New York agreement which led to transfer of rule over West Papua from Netherlands to Indonesia. In West Papua province, death in custody of brother-in-law of popular Papuan singer and Indonesian democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Edo Kondologit sparked hundreds 31 Aug to demonstrate at Sorong city police station demanding investigation. In Central Sulawesi province, suspected Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT) militants 8 Aug kidnapped two farmers in Poso, reportedly killing one; later that day opened fire on vehicle of medical workers and robbed them. Also in Poso, police 11 Aug found body of retired military officer allegedly killed by MIT. Counter-terror unit Densus 88 11-12 Aug arrested at least 20 suspected terrorists with alleged links to MIT and Islamic State-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah in West Java, Jakarta and Riau. Company of 150 soldiers 15 Aug arrived in Central Sulawesi to support Operation Tinombala in hunting down MIT militants. Govt continued to press ahead with controversial job creation bill; National Human Rights Commission 13 Aug called on President Joko Widodo and parliament to end discussions of bill, saying it could potentially violate environmental and labour protections; thousands 14 and 25 Aug demonstrated against bill in capital Jakarta.
Amid small-scale violence in Papua, tensions over political status of region continued, while protests erupted against govt’s controversial job creation bill. In Papua province, soldiers 18 July shot and killed two men in Nduga regency; military claimed victims were armed separatists of West Papua Liberation Army (WPLA), which WPLA denied; hundreds 19 and 27 July gathered in Nduga’s capital Keneyam calling for military to hand over bodies to family of those killed and demanding justice for past human rights abuses, including reported killing of over 200 civilians, amid military operations against armed separatists Dec 2018-July 2020. In late month, military accused of beating to death 18-year old Indigenous Papuan man arrested for theft in Boven Digoel regency, Papua province, near border with Papua New Guinea 24 July; military denied “beating”, said investigation under way. Earlier in month, Papuan civil society groups under banner Petisi Rakyat Papua (Petition by Papuans) 5 July voiced opposition to continuation of Papua special autonomy status, due to be debated this year by parliament, asked for referendum to allow Papuans to decide their own fate; series of small-scale protests opposing govt’s plan to continue special autonomy status took place, including 8, 11 and 14 July in Papua, Bali and Java. Demonstrators 1 July commemorated proclamation of West Papuan independence in South Sulawesi and East Java provinces, and Papuan students 6 July commemorated in Bali province 1998 “Biak massacre” during which security forces fired at peaceful protesters on Biak island, Papua. Thousands 16 July demonstrated against bill on job creation under parliament’s consideration in capital Jakarta; protesters reportedly began throwing rocks at police who responded with tear gas and arrested 20 (all eventually released next day). President Joko Widodo 3 July signed presidential regulation placing State Intelligence Agency directly under his control.
Suspected Islamist militant activity surged in South Kalimantan, while month saw series of protests calling for release of Papuan activists accused of pro-independence activities. In South Daha district, South Kalimantan province, suspected Islamic State (ISIS) militant 1 June set fire to police car and attacked police officers, killing one and seriously injuring another, before being fatally shot; counter-terror unit Densus 88 7 June arrested two alleged members of South Kalimantan branch of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, who they accused of co-planning attack. In Central Sulawesi province, members of joint police-military taskforce – established in 2016 to capture or eliminate Islamic militant group Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT) – 2 June allegedly shot and killed two Muslim farmers in Poso regency; hundreds of people 10 June demonstrated in town of Poso demanding investigation into shooting; police and National Human Rights Commission next day established team to look into farmers’ deaths and that of civilian reportedly also killed by security forces in April. Thousands rallied in series of demonstrations early-to-mid June in Papua, East Java, Jakarta and East Kalimantan provinces demanding release of seven Papuan activists, including Buchtar Tabuni, accused of “treason” for pro-independence activities; dozens injured as protest in Jayapura in Papua turned violent and some buildings were attacked. Balikpapan District Court 17 June sentenced all seven Papuan activists to between ten and 11 months in prison for treason. Jakarta State Administrative Court 3 June ruled unlawful govt’s internet shutdown in Papua and West Papua during 2019 protests. Local fishermen 25 June rescued 99 Rohingya refugees stranded at sea north of Aceh province, ignoring govt hesitations to allow them in due to COVID-19 risk.
Govt deployed over 300,000 security forces members across four provinces to enforce COVID-19 measures, and small-scale attacks continued in Papua. Amid COVID-19 pandemic, President Joko Widodo 4 May signed govt regulation postponing Sept regional elections until at least Dec; authorities 26 May deployed some 340,000 soldiers and police personnel to Jakarta, West Java, West Sumatra and Gorontalo provinces to enforce COVID-19 restrictions. In Papua province, police 16 May reported that members of armed separatist group, West Papua Liberation Army (WPLA), previous day launched attack on police post in Paniai regency, seriously injuring one police officer; WPLA said attack carried out to retrieve weapons. Also in Papua province, unidentified gunmen 22 May opened fire on local COVID-19 response team, killing one health worker and seriously injuring another in Intan Jaya regency; security forces and separatists blamed each other for attack. Indonesian Maritime and Air Police 15 May reported that at least 500 Rohingya refugees were en route from Myanmar to Aceh province, prompting calls from religious leaders, scholars, and activists for govt to launch rescue operation. President Widodo 11 May submitted to House of Representatives presidential regulation proposing involvement of military in fight against terrorism; National Human Rights Commission and human rights activists criticised move, said military would not be subjected to general justice under new regulation.
Amid COVID-19 pandemic, surge of attacks by Islamic militant group Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT) prompted reprisals from security forces in Central Sulawesi, while security operations continued in Papua in response to March deadly attack on PT Freeport gold mine office. Security forces launched reprisals against suspected members of separatist armed group, West Papua Liberation Army, who had claimed responsibility for March deadly attack in Timika, Papua province. Military 9 April reportedly raided house in Mimika regency, killing two suspected insurgents; next day killed another suspect in Tembagapura mining district. Separatist political umbrella, Free Papua Movement, 11 April proposed ceasefire to govt to allow both sides to focus on efforts to contain spread of COVID-19, but govt failed to respond. Security forces 13 April shot and killed two men near PT Freeport gold Grasberg mine; local rights activists claimed men were misidentified as insurgents, military said 15 April it would investigate incident. Also in Papua, a clash between military and police officers 12 April left three policemen dead in Mamberamo district. Series of deadly attacks involving MIT erupted in Central Sulawesi province, allegedly reflecting group’s attempt to take advantage of COVID-19 crisis: MIT militants early April kidnapped and beheaded farmer suspected of being informer; police on around 10 April shot and killed 20-year old, suspected to be MIT supporter despite reports contradicting claim, in Tobe village; 15 April police killed two suspected MIT militants after they attacked police officer in Poso city; MIT militants 19 April kidnapped and killed farmer in Kilo village; security forces 25 April shot and killed senior MIT member also in Kilo. Across country, police continued to arrest suspected members of Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), including 13 April arrests of four suspected JAD members in Southeast Sulawesi province, reportedly plotting attacks, and 10 April of another three JAD suspects in Java island. In North Sulawesi province, prison riot broke out 11 April, allegedly triggered by COVID-19 related measures and fears among detainees.
Eight gunmen 30 March attacked a PT Freeport gold mine office in Timika, Papua province, killing one miner and wounding six others; separatist armed group, West Papua Liberation Army, same day claimed responsibility for attack. FM 31 March announced decision to suspend foreign arrivals to curb spread of COVID-19; govt same day declared state of emergency and intention to release about 30,000 prisoners who have served two-thirds of their sentences.
Coordinating Minister for Legal, Political and Security Affairs Mahfud 11 Feb said President Joko Widodo and cabinet decided not to repatriate 689 citizens who had joined Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, due to potential security threat to public; Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko 13 Feb said their citizenship “had been automatically lost following their decision to join the terrorist movement in Syria” fuelling concerns about leaving them effectively stateless.
Govt 21 Jan said five citizens kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants in southern Philippines after fishing in Philippine waters (see Philippines). Tensions rose following Chinese incursion in exclusive economic zone off coast of northern Natuna island on southern edge of South China Sea, President Widodo 8 Jan visited island saying “De facto, de jure, Natuna is Indonesia”. Military spokesperson 9 Jan stated that Chinese coast guard vessels and fishing boats had departed; Widodo 10 Jan called on Japanese FM to invest in Natuna islands to bolster coast guard coordination (see South China Sea).
In Papua, military 18 Dec reported two soldiers shot dead by some ten suspected rebels in ambush in Intan Jaya regency. NGO Human Rights Watch reported police arrested at least 110 people for raising banned Papuan national flag at start of month around independence commemoration 1 Dec, charged 20 with treason. Police 18 Dec reported they arrested and were interrogating eight suspected Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Jayapura and Sentani, Papua province, suspected of planning attack and having links to Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD, responsible for several attacks in Indonesia). Police officer killed in suspected terror attack in Central Sulawesi 13 Dec, reportedly carried out by Islamic militant group Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT). Police anti-terror unit early Dec arrested six alleged militants in West Nusa Tenggara province, suspected of ISIS and JAD links. Govt 26 Dec announced plans to revive “truth and reconciliation” commission as way to bring closure over past human rights violations.
Tensions continued in Papua, while police arrested dozens across country following suicide terror attack in Sumatra. With tensions in Papua still high from deadly unrest in recent months, authorities put in place additional security measures ahead of 1 Dec, when region traditionally mark anniversary of West Papuan independence day, and which was marred by deadly separatist violence in 2018. Papua police chief said patrols being intensified in known separatist strongholds in regencies of Puncak Jaya, Lanny Jaya, Intan Jaya and Mimika, as well as in provincial capital Jayapura in anticipation of pro-independence rallies. Military 30 Nov reported rebel attack on army helicopter in Nduga regency, one suspected separatist rebel shot dead. Jayapura police reportedly arrested more than 30 people same day for planning to celebrate independence day, and several for wearing symbols of independence. In north Sumatra, 24-year-old student blew himself up outside police station in Medan 13 Nov, injuring four police and two civilians; police 18 Nov said attacker connected to Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, along with 22 other suspects in area. Police arrested dozens in north Sumatra and other provinces, including group leader, and killed two suspected bomb-makers in raid in Hamparan Perak village in north Sumatra 16 Nov. Police 14 Nov also arrested wife of Medan suicide bomber, who they said had been planning attack in Bali.
Tensions continued in Papua region following Sept unrest in which dozens of people were reported killed in clashes. Military 7 Oct reported more than 16,000 people had fled Wamena, where most deaths occurred, including some 11,4000 evacuated by military. National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas) 18 Oct called for investigation into deaths, and said number of killed higher than previously reported, including 43 in Wamena; Human Rights Watch early Oct called for govt to allow UN human rights officials access to region, and called for inquiry led by Komnas. Media 1 Oct reported that President Widodo said he was ready to meet with Papuan activists demanding independence referendum; one Papuan leader told Reuters talks would need international mediation. Police 11 Oct said they would investigate discovery of bodies of five villagers – three women and a teenage boy and girl – with bullet wounds in Nduga area, site of clashes between military and separatists since late 2018. Military reported three civilians killed by separatists in Hitadipa 18 Oct; West Papua National Liberation Army claimed victims were military personnel. Widodo visited Papua late Oct, opening new bridge in provincial capital Jayapura. At national level, Widodo’s appointment as defence minister of former general Prabowo Subianto, his rival during April presidential election, prompted concern over past accusations of human rights abuses against Subianto. Suspected ISIS supporter stabbed chief security minister Wiranto in Banten province, west of capital Jakarta 10 Oct; Wiranto operated on for his wounds; husband and wife arrested in connection with attack.
Demonstrations led to violence again in Papua, resulting in at least 30 reported dead and scores injured. Separate protests erupted in Wamena city and Papua’s capital Jayapura 23 Sept. Demonstrations in Wamena allegedly provoked by rumours that teacher directed racial slurs against indigenous Papuan student 21 Sept. Protesters reportedly set fire to buildings, including govt district office; at least sixteen people reported killed, most non-indigenous, and many after being trapped in fires; dead reportedly include children. In Jayapura, media reports indicated violence erupted after authorities stormed gathering of indigenous Papuan students at university, including some taking refuge from other cities; at least three protesters and one soldier reported killed in clashes in Jayapura. Media reported thousands of people attempted to flee Wamena late month; military 27 Sept said they evacuated about 700 residents. Authorities ramped up efforts to arrest activists suspected of involvement in Aug protests in Papua, including Buchtar Tabuni, arrested 9 Sept for suspected treason, and issued notice to Interpol for arrest of Australia-based Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman. Authorities 26 Sept arrested journalist Dandhy Laksono, accused of violating online hate speech laws in posts on Papua clashes. Military 19 Sept reported three civilians including a young child killed and four wounded in shoot-out with separatists in Ilaga town. Elsewhere, counter-terror unit Densus 88 arrested nine suspected members of Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) during 23 Sept raids near Jakarta; police said they uncovered bomb-making materials. Anti-corruption protesters clashed with police in Jakarta and other cities late Sept; at least three protesters reported killed, including two students in Sulawesi island.
Tensions worsened in Papua amid large-scale demonstrations against the discriminatory treatment of Papuan students that turned violent with clashes between protesters and security forces. Local residents 15 Aug attacked Papuan students in Malang who were protesting without police permission in support of West Papua independence. Next day in Surabaya, ahead of Indonesia’s 17 Aug Independence Day, an angry mob threatened and harassed Papuan students outside their dormitory, after locals claimed they destroyed national flag; police reportedly did not intervene but instead fired tear gas and arrested 43 students 17 Aug over flag issue, released them next day. In response to incidents, protesters 19 Aug began demonstrations in Manokwari, Sorong and Timika (Papua), some turned violent with local parliament building in Manokwari burnt down. Authorities deployed thousands of security personnel to region since 19 Aug; police 21 Aug said they arrested 45 people during protests in Timika, releasing eleven soon after. Information ministry 21 Aug temporarily cut internet access in Papua. Demonstrations 23 Aug turned violent when gunfight broke out between authorities and protesters in Wamena, one protester killed by police. Clashes continued 28 Aug, police reported one soldier and two civilians killed in Deiyai regency, while pro-independence activists claimed six protesters shot dead by police. Next day, protesters in Jayapura reportedly set fire to several govt buildings and damaged businesses. President “Jokowi” Widodo 29 Aug called for calm, while Coordinating Minister for Security affairs General Wiranto said the govt would not entertain demands for referendum on independence. Suspected Islamist militant 17 Aug attacked police officer with sickle in Surabaya, East Java; police shot suspect and took him into custody. Counter-terror unit Densus 88 arrested six suspects with alleged ties to Islamic State-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah during 22-24 Aug raids in East Java. Widodo 26 Aug announced plans to move country’s capital from Jakarta to new city on Kalimantan province on Borneo.
Anti-militant operations continued, amid low-level violence in Papua. Anti-terror police Densus 88 reported they had foiled plot to carry out Independence Day bombing on 17 August, arresting suspected militant in West Sumatra province 18 July; police stated suspect believed to be member of Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Jemaah Ansharut Daulah. Police 23 July said deadly cathedral bombing which killed over 22 in Jan was carried out by Indonesian couple who attempted to travel to Syria to join ISIS. Counter-terrorism agency chief 8 July said govt set up task force to decide whether it will take back families of Indonesian ISIS fighters stranded in Syria. Military 30 July announced new military unit to fight terrorism, reportedly consisting of 500 personnel. In Papua province, suspected separatist rebels 20 July killed soldier guarding construction of bridge in Nduga district. NGO Solidarity Team for Nduga 18 July claimed around 5,200 people displaced by fighting between soldiers and separatists since Dec 2018, alleging some 139 had died from malnutrition and disease; military spokesman disputed figures.
Constitutional Court (CC) rejected bid to annul April presidential election in which incumbent President Widodo was victorious, while police arrested several suspected militants in raids. Lawyers for failed presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto 14 June officially challenged election results to CC claiming systematic fraud; head of electoral commission denied charges. Court 27 June rejected case brought by Subianto. Amid fears of pro-Subianto supporters rioting following violent protests in May, govt deployed close to 50,000 police and military personnel in Jakarta during hearing; media reported hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered outside court prior to decision. Anti-terror police Densus 88 mid-June detained 34 suspects with alleged ties to Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) during raids in Central Kalimantan province. Local media reported police 29 June arrested leader of Jemaah Islamiyah group in West Java province. Police 3 June arrested suspected ISIS sympathiser after failed suicide bomb attempt in Central Java, in which only suspect sustained injuries.
Several people killed in protests against victory of incumbent President Widodo in presidential elections, which were also overshadowed by threats of terrorist attacks. After Election Commission 22 May proclaimed President Widodo winner with 55% of vote, supporters of failed candidate Prabowo Subianto, who continued to declare himself rightful winner, took to streets in protests that turned violent as police pushed them back with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons. Eight reported killed and hundreds injured; police reported over 250 arrests; authorities launched investigation into deaths. Chief security minister 22 May announced partial block on social media to prevent “spread of fake news”. Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu warned of more riots in June as Constitutional Court hears case lodged by Subianto to annul Widodo’s victory; court scheduled to issue ruling on annulment 28 June. Govt 17 May claimed it foiled terrorist plot to detonate explosives during election results announcement; police arrested several suspects in raids in Java early-to-mid May, believed to be members of Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD); several reportedly returned from fighting in Syria. Police reported anti-terrorism squad had killed two suspected JAD members 4 May during raid in West Java. Violence continued in Papua province, where military reported one soldier killed in clashes with some 20 members of West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) in Nduga regency 13 May.
Violence continued in Papua province, where tensions increased around national elections 17 April. Both incumbent President Widodo and his challenger, retired general Prabowo Subianto, claimed victory in presidential election; official results due 22 May, with private polls suggesting decisive lead for Widodo; Subianto continued to claim widespread fraud, raising concerns over contested result. Tensions heightened around general election in Papua’s Nduga regency as military pursued West Papua Liberation Army (WPLA); WPLA claimed it had killed two Indonesian soldiers early April, denied by military; military reported gun attack on election organisers and security forces in Alama district 18 April. WPLA claimed to have prevented voting in 32 districts, but military said voting not affected despite some exchanges of gunfire in Timika district. Two soldiers reported injured in ambush 24 April. Nduga local administration 3 April investigation report concluded that military committed human rights violations during crackdown that started in Dec 2018, and urged govt to withdraw. Report claimed almost 20,000 displaced by fighting, while Front Line Defenders NGO reported over 32,000; military said just over 3,500 displaced by armed group and rejected the report’s findings. Group of Papuan lawyers 12 April submitted judicial review to Constitutional Court challenging legality of Indonesia’s 1969 incorporation of Papua, saying that “Act of Free Choice” referendum was conducted in a way that “grossly violated the human rights of Papuans”.
Violence continued in Papua’s Nduga regency, site of Dec 2018 killing by separatist rebels of sixteen road construction workers and subsequent security operations. Military 7 March reported three soldiers and seven to ten rebels killed as estimated 70 members of “armed criminal group” with military-grade weapons as well as spears ambushed group of 25 soldiers in Nduga area; West Papua National Liberation Army reported at least five soldiers killed, accused military of burning houses and interrogating villagers, sparking violence. Military 5 March said 600 soldiers to be deployed to finish building trans-Papua highway. Thousands of villagers reportedly remain displaced. West Papua National Committee spokesperson 13 March told session of UN Human Rights Council that military was targeting indigenous Papuans and committing human rights violations; govt spokesperson blamed separatist rebels for displacements. Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) provincial leader jailed for ten years 18 March for role in May 2018 Surabaya bombings which killed 28. Ahead of 17 April presidential and legislative elections, presidential challenger Prabowo Subianto claimed massive irregularities in voter roll, raising questions over credibility of result.
Tensions continued in Papua province, while reports of terrorist activity highlighted concerns over return of foreign fighters elsewhere. In Papua, NGO Humanitarian Volunteers for Nduga 20 Feb said hundreds of students had fled fighting in Papua province’s Nduga district since Dec, although military continued to reject reports that it had fired on civilians during search for rebels suspected of Dec killing of road construction workers. Military reported that suspected separatists had opened fire on aircraft carrying military personnel and govt officials in Nduga 28 Jan, killing one soldier. Video of Papuan police threatening suspected petty thief with a snake early Feb provoked outrage; UN human rights officials 21 Feb called for independent probe into “alleged killings, unlawful arrests, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of indigenous Papuans” by police and military in West Papua and Papua provinces, noting concern over “culture of impunity and general lack of investigations into allegations of human rights violations”. Police apologised, said those involved being disciplined. Police 11 Feb announced that counter-terrorist unit Densus 88 early Jan arrested man at Jakarta airport suspected of intending to travel to Syria to join Islamic State (ISIS), having previously served jail term for helping 2002 Bali bomber. Police announced that govt had sent counter-terrorist unit to Philippines, whose govt claimed that attackers in 27 Jan bomb attack in Jolo, Philippines, were Indonesian couple, although Jakarta denied (see Philippines).
Clashes continued in Papua’s central Highlands region, including regencies of Nduga, Puncak, Puncak Jaya and Lanny Jaya, as military continued pursuit of West Papua Liberation Army following early Dec killing of at least sixteen road construction workers and a soldier. Military reported at least one separatist killed in 9 Jan clash, although United Liberation Movement for West Papua said military had targeted civilians and deceased was a civilian; military also reported one soldier killed in attack in Puncak Jaya 18 Jan. United Liberation Movement for West Papua claimed six civilians have been shot dead by military. Military reportedly raided and seized offices of pro-independence West Papua National Committee (KNPB) in Timika (south) 31 Dec and charged three KNPB members with subversion. Spokesperson for office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet late Jan said govt has agreed in principle to grant access to Papua. Ahead of April presidential election, President Widodo was accused of trying to win over religious conservatives after govt announced radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, linked to 2002 Bali bombings, would be granted unconditional release; following domestic criticism and call from Australia not to show leniency, Widodo said his release would be conditional on him pledging loyalty to state and its secular ideology.
Fighting spiked day after crackdown on rallies marking anniversary of West Papuan independence with 2 Dec killing of nineteen state contractor employees working on major highway construction project in Nduga district, Papua province; West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) armed group claimed responsibility, saying it regarded guards as members of military. Military launched hunt for suspects and mission to retrieve bodies; 3 Dec reported that militants using military grade weapons as well as spears and arrows attacked military post, killing one soldier and injuring two. At least four civilians reported killed in crossfire during subsequent fighting, in addition to unspecified number of soldiers and TPNPB fighters; hundreds of civilians reported to have fled to mountains. TPNPB video said group would continue armed resistance until it achieves self-determination; Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs General Wiranto dismissed idea of entering talks with group govt called “criminals”. TPNPB also called for govt to allow foreign journalists and international aid organisations to access area. Amid concern over suffering of civilians who had fled fighting, Papuan Governor Lukas Enembe 20 Dec called on President Jokowi to withdraw troops, and said local authorities would establish task force to investigate killings. Govt denied report in Australian newspaper late Dec that military had used chemical weapon white phosphorus in operation. Earlier in month, over 500 people reportedly arrested as thousands of people joined rallies in urban areas in Papua and West Papua as well as other parts of Indonesia 1 Dec marking 57th anniversary of West Papuan declaration of independence from Dutch rule; over a dozen protesters reported injured in Surabaya on Java island after clashing with nationalist paramilitary forces. UN Human Rights Office spokesperson said violence by armed groups was “unacceptable”, also that it was “troubled by the crackdown over peaceful demonstrations and increasing reports of excessive use of force by security forces, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions in Papua”.
Month saw further reports of clashes between military and pro-independence movement West Papua Liberation Army in Papua province’s Highlands; two Liberation Army fighters reported killed in clash with police and soldiers in Lanny Jaya district 3 Nov, after shooting dead a man they believed was spying for military. Police reportedly arbitrarily arrested over peaceful 100 pro-independence activists in Jayapura 19 Nov, releasing them next day. National Intelligence Agency reported findings that imams at dozens of mosques, including some in Jakarta attended by civil servants, were expressing support or sympathy for Islamic State (ISIS) and encouraging congregants to fight for it; also noted signs of radicalisation at university campuses.
Security forces responded harshly to peaceful protests in support of the right of self-determination in Papua prompting international criticism, while concerns over risks of new jihadist attacks remained. Govt accused Vanuatu of fuelling tensions late Sept after it voiced support for West Papuan self-determination movement at UN General Assembly and called for UN Human Rights Council to investigate rights abuses in region. UK-based TAPOL and U.S.-based East Timor and Indonesia Action Network reported authorities late Sept arrested over 120 peaceful protestors – including 39 in West Java – who voiced their support for right to self-determination; also said that at least five Papuans were tortured in Sept and one died in police custody. Military early Oct reported one Papuan killed in operation seeking members of West Papua Liberation Army in Puncak Jaya regency, Papua province; local rights activists reported two members of Liberation Army and five civilians including two children killed in land and air operations. Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict released report 18 Oct warning that Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, blamed for May Surabaya bombings, is still a threat and could launch attacks in west and central Java. Organisers of movement promoting moderate Islam cancelled mass rally in Yogyakarta late Oct to avoid violence after some of its supporters burned flag of outlawed Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Authorities 4 Sept reported police shot dead two suspected militants and arrested five while seeking perpetrators of late Aug shooting of two traffic police in West Java, believed to be members of Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah. Local media reported up to 79 people arrested after demonstrating peacefully in provincial capital Jayapura 4 Sept calling for self-determination; students protested 24 Sept supporting efforts to take West Papua issue to UN General Assembly, 67 reportedly arrested. Earthquake and tsunami that struck Sulawesi island 28 Sept killed at least 844 people, with fears death toll could reach thousands.
Court in Sumatra 21 Aug sentenced Buddhist woman to eighteen months’ jail for complaining about level of noise from her neighbourhood mosque, in controversial verdict that added to concerns that country’s strict blasphemy laws are being used to violate religious freedoms and bully minorities; moderate Islamic organisation Nahdlatul Ulama among those criticising verdict. Indonesia and Philippines 10 Aug signed agreement to enhance defence cooperation including on fighting terrorism. Police chief 7 Aug said police had arrested almost 300 terror suspects since mid-May Surabaya terror attacks. Group proclaiming itself pro-Islamic State (ISIS) hackers threatened to attack govt to avenge jailing of “brothers” and crackdown on their social media activity. Military ordered soldiers to pursue Papua National Liberation Army, suspected of killing two soldiers in ambush in Puncak Jaya regency 20 Aug.
United Liberation Movement for West Papua reported that security operation in West Papua’s Nduga agency had conducted aerial campaign in pursuit of pro-independence fighters who claimed responsibility for late June attack on police at local airport; said operation resulted in several casualties and thousands displaced; military said reports of airstrikes and bombings were a hoax, and that it was working with police in “law enforcement activities” in Alguru in Nduga. Amnesty International 2 July said that security forces have committed almost 100 extrajudicial killings in Papua and West Papua since 2010, mainly in context of “unnecessary or excessive use of force during mass protests, during law enforcement operations or due to misconduct by individual officials”, and almost no accountability. Police chief mid-July said police had arrested almost 200 terror suspects and killed twenty who were resisting arrest since mid-May Surabaya attacks; early July told media police had foiled over 500 terror plots since 2012. Jakarta court 31 July banned Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah group, blamed for Surabaya attacks.
Regional and local elections took place across entire country 27 June, with thousands of police and military deployed for security; official results expected 9 July. In Papua province, three civilians reported killed and one child injured 25 June by separatist fighters who fired at plane carrying security personnel and election materials to remote Nduga district; three people including two police reported killed by alleged separatists firing on boats carrying voters and officials on election day. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein 19 June expressed concern that govt had not honoured its invitation for him to visit Papua and West Papua provinces. Court 22 June sentenced Islamic cleric Aman Abdurrahman to death for inciting several deadly terrorist attacks, including two in Jakarta in 2016 and attack on church in East Kalimantan in 2017. Leading figure in Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) militant network, Abdurrahman was accused of organising attacks from jail; also believed to have masterminded Surabaya church bombings in May that left over 30 people dead. Authorities mid-June reported over 100 suspects arrested over Surabaya attacks, with some killed allegedly while trying to resist arrest. Addressing Shangri-La Dialogue Asia security summit, defence minister proposed regional strategy to fight terrorism in Indo-Pacific.
Twenty-five killed in series of bombings in and around second largest city Surabaya, eastern Java 13-14 May, in deadliest attack claimed by Islamic State (ISIS) to date. At least eighteen killed and 40 injured in bombings targeting Sunday services at three churches in Surabaya 13 May; police said attacks were carried out by family of six, including nine- and twelve-year-old girls with explosives strapped to them accompanying their mother, and two teenage boys on motorbikes. Police said father of family was head of local cell of ISIS-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) militant network. Three members of another family killed by homemade bombs they were allegedly making in Sidoarjo near Surabaya same day. Four people killed and ten injured in bombing on police HQ in Surabaya 14 May; police said attack was carried out by family of five including child aged eight; ISIS claimed responsibility. Police said all three families connected through religious study group. Five members of elite counter-terrorism police unit Densus 88 and one prisoner killed in riot in maximum-security jail outside Jakarta 8 May; ISIS claimed responsibility, authorities rejected claim. Police shot dead four suspected terrorists attacking police HQ with swords in Pekanbaru, Sumatra 16 May; one police officer killed, two wounded. Parliament 25 May passed new anti-terrorism legislation intended to combat militant networks; first proposed in 2016, new law allows police to detain people suspected of planning attacks for longer, and prosecute those who join or recruit for militant groups.
Military reported clashes between security forces and separatist rebels in Papua province close to Grasberg copper mine in first days of April; said one soldier and two suspected rebels killed, separatists reported just one of their fighters and at least 28 soldiers killed, also a ten-year-old boy.
Group of religious leaders, human rights activists, researchers and lawyers 20 Feb released joint statement expressing alarm over spate of violent attacks against places of worship around country, including 11 Feb sword attack on Catholic church that injured four people. Court 6 Feb sentenced terrorist Suryadi Mas’ud, alias Montilla Perez, to ten years’ jail for procuring firearms in Philippines and involvement in funding terrorism. Z