An Indonesian soldier was killed while investigating reports that more than two dozen construction workers were shot dead by separatist rebels in restive Papua province, officials said yesterday. If confirmed, the killings would mark the deadliest bout of violence in years to hit a far-flung region wracked for decades by a low-level independence insurgency.
Citing local police, Indonesian media reported late Monday that the workers were shot dead on Sunday in Nduga, a district in the centre of the region on the western half of New Guinea island, just north of Australia. Police and military teams were sent to the area on Monday when they came under rebel gunfire with one soldier killed and another wounded in the firefight, authorities said.
The employees of stateowned contractor Istaka Karya were building bridges and roads as part of efforts to boost infrastructure in the impoverished region. All construction work in the area would be temporarily suspended, the public works ministry said. More than a dozen coffins were being readied in Wamena, the nearest major town to where the alleged killings happened.