Papua police face difficulty seeking release of 1,300 villager hostages
The Jakarta Post
The National Police have said they found it difficult to provide assistance to 1,300 people in Banti and Kimbely villages in Tembagapura district, Mimika regency, Papua, who have become hostages of a Papuan separatist group.
Armed separatists from the Free Papua Movement (OPM) have been holding the residents hostage since Nov. 5.
Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Setyo Wasisto said on Tuesday that the group had closed all the access points to enter the villages.
"They made holes in the roads and set obstructions, so we could not use the roads," Setyo said as quoted by kompas.com. He added that the police also found it difficult to distribute assistance via helicopter because there was no landing area in the villages.
"There's no base for airplanes or helicopters to land. It is a mountainous area with cold, thick fog," Setyo added.
He went on to say that OPM members had been hiding around the villages. They sometimes climbed up the mountain and stayed in the villages.
Indonesia Police Watch (IPW) presidium chairman Neta S. Pane previously cited the hostage crisis as a more aggressive strategy taken by the OPM.
Citing its investigation, the watchdog said OPM had moved their headquarters from Australia to Suva, the capital of Fiji, a South Pacific island country.
“Their shift in strategy is related to the changes in their headquarters and organization,” Neta said on Monday. “The government must anticipate the new maneuvers of these armed criminals.” (foy)
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