Indonesian General Is Killed in Rebel Ambush, Sparking Fears of Retaliation

Indonesia’s top intelligence agent in Papua Province was a one-star general who did not believe in running from his office. Brig is from Bali. General I Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha rose through the ranks of the feared Indonesian special forces, often patrolling with troops in areas where separatist rebels were known to orchestrate attacks.

“Ambushes and shootings are rife,” said Wawan Hari Purwanto, a spokesman for the State Intelligence Agency. “But he always chose to be at the forefront of every patrol and observation, including shootings. He didn’t want to just sit behind a desk. “

On Sunday, 51-year-old General Danny entered his final ambush. He was shot dead near a church in remote Dambet Village in the central highlands of Papua. Now human rights activists fear that President Joko Widodo’s demand for a strong response to the general’s death could lead to harsh reprisals against indigenous people in Indonesia’s easternmost province.

When the murder was announced on Monday, Mr. Joko asked the army and police to hunt down and arrest anyone in the group responsible for the general’s death. General Danny was the first general to die in action in Indonesian history, an army spokesman said.

“I stress that there is no place for armed criminal groups in Papua or any other part of the country,” said Joko during a brief appearance flanked by Vice President Ma’ruf Amin and the chiefs of the army, police and police State Intelligence Agency.

The West Papua National Liberation Army, a separatist group that carried out other attacks in the area, took responsibility for the general’s death. No one was reported injured in the ambush.

The territory of Papua occupies the western half of the island of New Guinea. It was occupied and annexed by Indonesia in the 1960s, but many indigenous Papuans advocate independence and separatist groups have been campaigning at low levels for decades.

The area is rich in natural resources. Indonesia, often in partnership with foreign companies, has long produced copper, gold, wood and natural gas from the two provinces of Papua and West Papua that make up the region.

Officials disclosed few details about the afternoon ambush and subsequent shootings in the Beoga district. General Danny went to Dambet Village with a relatively small unit of soldiers and police officers, according to intelligence officials.

The village is in an area where rebels recently killed two teachers and a teenager who, according to news reports, claimed they worked as spies for the Indonesian security forces.

A spokesman for the insurgent group said the general was hit by a stray ball, a local news agency said. There was no further explanation.

The ambush took place about 20 miles northeast of the huge Grasberg copper and gold mine, a symbol of the exploitation of Papua’s natural resources by foreign interests. It was operated for decades by the American mining company Freeport-McMoRan and was acquired by a state-owned Indonesian company in 2018.

Intelligence spokesman Mr. Wawan said the ambush was not due to an intelligence failure and the general was aware of the risks.

“Dying in service is a matter of pride,” he said.

In a statement on Monday announcing the death of General Danny, the secret service said it “continues to improve” the early detection and detection of attacks by violent groups in Papua. The general’s visit was conducted to “improve the morale and spirit of the people who have been disturbed by the cruelty and ferocity of the Papuan separatist and terrorist group,” the statement said.

The agency called the intelligence chief a “national hero” who died “defending the sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia” and said he was posthumously promoted to major general.

Before General Danny assumed the post of intelligence, he served with the elite Kopassus special unit, which has been accused for decades of abuses and atrocities against indigenous Papuans. In 2003, seven Kopassus soldiers were convicted of the murder of prominent independence leader Theys Eluay.

Human rights activists said the upcoming crackdown could result in retaliation against indigenous peoples.

“Human rights defenders are really concerned,” said Veronica Koman, an Indonesian human rights lawyer and activist from Australia who is following the events in Papua. “We can already see that an additional military operation is coming to Papua because of this murder.”