Separatists in Indonesia's Papua kill 8 workers at telecom tower

JAKARTA, March 4 (Reuters) - Separatists in Indonesia's easternmost region of Papua have killed eight technicians who were working on fixing a telecommunications tower in a mountainous area, security officials and a spokesman for a rebel group said.

The attack is one of the most deadly in recent years in Papua, a resource-rich area that has seen a simmering separatist conflict since being incorporated into Indonesia in 1969.

Aqsha Erlangga, a military spokesman in Papua, said in a statement that armed groups had gunned down the eight people at the tower in the Puncak district and that one worker, who he said could be seen on CCTV pleading for help, survived.

Sebby Sambom, a spokesman for the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM) in a statement said some of its members were responsible for the attack, and prior warnings had been issued to civilians to vacate an area that he said was a war zone.

"Those shot were members of the military and police," he said.

Ahmad Mustofa Kamal, a police spokesman in Papua, said police believed that five armed groups were behind the incident in the early hours of Wednesday, in retaliation for attacks by security forces.

He told Kompas TV that police had warned civilians about the risk of violence in the area and although there were sufficient security personnel, there was always a threat.

"We have to be careful because terror groups can do whatever they want, whenever they want," Kamal said.

In December 2018, the military wing of the OPM claimed responsibility for killing at least 16 construction workers and a soldier building a road in Nduga district.

The separatists said they viewed the construction workers as being members of the military and casualties of a war against the Indonesian government.

United Nations human rights experts this week called on Indonesia to hold an independent investigation into reports of "shocking abuses" targeting indigenous Papuans, including killings and enforced displacement. Indonesia rejected the call and said the Southeast Asian nation has already tackled the accusations. read more

Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Ed Davies

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