National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Setyo Wasisto told reporters on Tuesday (15/11) that police are approaching the situation involving an armed group besieging two villages in Timika, Papua, “delicately” to avoid casualties.
“The police are still hoping to achieve a resolution through persuasive efforts, we don’t want any casualties. We want to resolve this issue in Banti and Kimbely delicately,” Setyo said.
A group of gunmen known as the Armed Criminal Group (KKB) allegedly laid siege to Banti and Kimbely — two villages in Timika, Papua, which are home to more than 1,300 residents — for more than two weeks.
Banti and Kimbely are located near the Utikini river in Tembagapura district, next to the Grasberg copper mine operated by the Indonesian unit of US mining giant Freeport-McMoRan.
According to Setyo, police are refraining from asserting a hard-power approach.
“It’s not that the police are incapable [of fighting back], but if we are assertive we will definitely incur casualties. So we’re trying our best to take the persuasive approach [through negotiations],” Setyo said.
He added that the government has sent two containers of food supply for the villagers, but they have yet to gain full access because the roads to the villages have been blocked.
Local authorities are currently in the middle of negotiations with the armed group. Setyo said police have attempted to provide a more effective means of communication by providing radios, though this measure was refused by the group.
The police have claimed that the siege was sparked by economic issues, though the spokesman did not dismiss the possibility of other factors contributing to the situation.
“We are certain that economic issues played a role, but there are other factors that we need to look into, which must be based on facts,” Setyo said.
On Tuesday morning, unknown gunmen shot at a vehicle owned by Freeport Indonesia, injuring one.
Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said the gunmen are provocateurs who want to disturb peace in the region.
Papua Police on Saturday issued a wanted list of 21 men from the armed group that cut access to 1,300 people in Banti and Kimbely villages in Tembagapura last week.
Police believe the militants are led by Sabinus Waker.