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3 dead as Indonesian forces pursue rebel commander in Papua

AP  |  Jakarta 

Two Papuan independence fighters and a third person have been killed during a week of gunbattles with security forces in the highlands of Indonesia's remote region, both sides in the conflict say.

An and military operation is trying to capture Purom Wenda, a West Liberation Army who has eluded for 15 years but who authorities call a former petty criminal of "low intellectual level."

Villagers have fled into the jungle because of the fighting, which reports say has intensified in highlands districts for several months.

Wenda, in a statement conveyed via an activist on Friday, said two of his fighters were killed in a shootout with police and soldiers in mountainous district after his group shot dead a they believed was spying for Indonesian security forces.

The military said the man, a migrant from Sulawesi, was an innocent civilian.

An insurgency has simmered in the formerly Dutch-controlled region since it became part of more than half a century ago.

"Our struggle in the jungle has been going for decades," said Wenda's statement.

"Countless people have died for this struggle. said that they have given us special autonomy, infrastructure, and other excuses. We do not want all that. We only want freedom."

Papua province Col said that Wenda forbade villagers from recovering the body of the man they shot on Saturday in an attempt to set a trap for security forces.

He said police and soldiers using three vehicles recovered the body and exchanged fire with rebels for 30 minutes, later discovering that two were killed and also seizing a significant amount of ammunition.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, November 09 2018. 17:55 IST