Papua separatists kill dozens of Indonesian workers | News | DW | 04.12.2018
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Papua separatists kill dozens of Indonesian workers

Indonesian officials have described it as the "worst attack" in the region in recent memory. The workers were building roads and bridges to spur economic development in Indonesia's most impoverished region.

Papuan activists protesting in the Indonesian capital Jakarta

For decades, Papuan activists have called for independence from Indonesia

Indonesian security services have launched an operation targeting separatists in the province of Papua after 31 construction workers were shot dead, authorities said on Tuesday.

"This is the worst attack launched by the armed criminal group recently amid intensified development by the government," Papua police spokesman Suryadi Diaz told The Associated Press.

Police are trying to recover the bodies, but Diaz said the separatists had scattered them throughout the district, which is known as a rebel stronghold.

The workers were employed by the state-owned construction company Istaka Karya as part of a government-sponsored infrastructure project aimed at fostering economic development in the region.

Indonesian Public Workers Minister Basuki Hadimuljono said work stemming from the infrastructure project would be "suspended given this incident."

Read more: A look at the Papua conflict — Indonesia's 'low-level insurgency'

Indonesian soldiers walk by a burned out vehicle following clashes in Papua province

The region has seen bouts of deadly violence erupt between authorities and rebels for years

Half a century of conflict

The province is home to a low-intensity conflict between Papua rebels fighting for independence and government forces.

The former Dutch colony declared independence in 1961, but two years later was occupied by Indonesian forces. Papua separatists launched an insurgency following a controversial UN-backed referendum in 1969 that saw the province formally annexed by Indonesia.

Indonesia has maintained a strong grip on the mineral-rich province, with human rights groups criticizing the government for maintaining tight restrictions on access and press coverage.

The murders come days after Papua separatists celebrated what they describe as their Independence Day on December 1.

Read more: Fighting for a forgotten cause in West Papua

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ls/rc (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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