Papua Police arrested seven members of the pro-independence West Papua National Committee (KNPB) on Saturday in connection with an alleged bomb plot that has human rights advocates crying foul.
Police reportedly discovered white powder, homemade explosives and a detonator in a house in Wamena, West Papua. The home’s owner Pilemon Esolak was arrested in connection with the bombs, National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said.
Pilemon allegedly told police that he received the explosives from a man identified by police as “L.H.” and was told to blow up the police station, military office, Baliem bridge and urban ward office in Wamena.
Papua Police conducted a search of KNPB homes and posts in three villages on Saturday. They reportedly uncovered additional bombmaking evidence.
“There were [other] explosives kept in three posts of the KNPB in Abusan village, Elabukama village and Honailama village,” Boy said. “After getting the information, a special team with Mobile Brigade [BriMob] bomb squad unit and a police dog searched the secretariat office of KNPB.”
At the office, police allegedly found two bombs, three bows, one airgun, eight machetes, two axes, a compact disc about Papuan independence and a Morning Star flag.
“Both bombs have been defused by the bomb squad,” Boy said. “The location has been secured by Jawi police and witnesses are still [being] questioned to find the suspect. The situation is conducive.”
But the Papua branch of the Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (Elsham) doubted the veracity of the police reports.
“It [the evidence] must have been fabricated by police, they placed the explosives in the office so the police would have a reason to arrest them,” said Ferry Marisan, director of the Papua branch of Elsham.
The West Papua National Committee has historically been considered a peaceful pro-independence organization.
“If we observed their activities in Papua until the death of Mako Tabuni, they never staged violent acts, let alone kept firearms or explosives,” Ferry said.
Mako was killed in June in what the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) called a police hit.
Police said Mako was resisting arrest when he was fatally shot and was wanted in connection with a series of seemingly random shootings in and around Jayapura.
The killing has attracted ire from Australian activists over the alleged involvement of the Australian-trained anti-terrorism squad Densus 88.
Ferry called the Mako killing, and this recent string of arrests, a common practice in Papua.
“It is the same case with Mako Tabuni,” Ferry said. “They said Mako was shot because he was trying to fight back with his weapon. Witness told me that he did not even carry weapon.
“Fabricating such things is not new while Papua fights for human rights.”
The recently sworn in Papua Police chief vowed to take a grassroots approach to policing the restive province during his swearing in ceremony in Jakarta on Sept. 21.
“This is a matter of hearts that we have to touch,” Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian said.
Tito was the former head of Densus 88 from 2004 to 2011. He was briefly appointed as deputy chief of the recently formed National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) before taking over the Papua Police.