Two Indonesian soldiers killed in separatist attack in Papua

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Two Indonesian soldiers have been shot dead in Indonesia’s easternmost province of Papua, ambushed by separatist rebels while transporting goods to a village in a remote area, a military spokesman said on Wednesday.

Papua has suffered a simmering conflict led by a mostly poorly armed and fractured separatist movement for decades.

Muhammad Aidi, intelligence assistant for Indonesia’s special forces unit, said the rebels attacked when soldiers and local residents were transporting goods for year-end celebrations from a helicopter pad to Kulapa village in Intan Jaya regency.”Around 150 meters (500 ft) from the outskirts of the village, suddenly 10 members of an armed separatist group with various weapons attacked,” Aidi said in a statement, adding the bodies of the two soldiers remained at the location. The rough terrain, bad weather and poor communications in the area were hampering the evacuation of the victims, he said.

Currently, soldiers were guarding the village to ensure the security of residents, he said.

A former Dutch colony, resource-rich Papua was incorporated into Indonesia after a controversial U.N.-backed referendum in 1969. The region has since endured decades of mostly low-level separatist conflict.

After a spike in protests and civil unrest in August, Indonesia sent about 6,000 additional military and police personnel to the region.

Reporting by Augustinus Beo Da Costa; Editing by Ed Davies & Shri Navaratnam