KOMPAS.com – The ongoing insurgency in Papua erupted again in the first week of 2021, after armed insurgents burned a plane belonging to the MAF [Mission Aviation Fellowship] missionary organization on Wednesday, January 6. No casualties were reported.
The incident occurred in the regency of Intan Jaya, a known battleground between Indonesian military and police personnel and the insurgents since 2020, specifically at the hamlet of Pagamba, which has an advanced airstrip belonging to MAF.
“The plane’s pilot, a US citizen named Alex Luferchek, told us that the insurgents struck after he landed at Pagamba to drop off two people in the village who flew there from the town of Nabire,” said Papua Regional Police spokesman Police Chief Commissioner AM Kamal on Thursday, January 7.
“He said a number of insurgents barged in the plane, ordered Luferchek out with warning shots, and burned the plane. Luferchek managed to flee and was kept safe by a priest and a number of local people, before we evacuated him, traumatized but safe, to Nabire.”
Kamal added that the National Search and Rescue Agency [Basarnas] managed to locate the plane. However, Papua Regional Police chief Inspector General Paulus Waterpauw warned that it will more than finding the plane to evacuate the aircraft.
“Geographical conditions, as well as spotty communications, are the primary reason keeping our men from reaching the wreckage," he said. "We hope that the Covid-19 Task Force in the nearby town of Nemangkawi can help our men get to the site."
Waterpauw added that the Intan Jaya police precinct, as well as the nearby precinct of Nabire, already mobilized men to get to the wreck site.
The insurgents accepted the responsibility for the attack. They warned that they “are ‘ready to shoot such light aircraft before if it was suspected of carrying police and military personnel.”