JAKARTA – Indonesia recovered on Thursday the bodies of 16 victims, who were killed in a separatist attack against a state-owned construction company in the remote Papua province.
Papua police spokesperson Suryadi Diaz told EFE that the victims are being identified and that they are still trying to determine if more workers of the state-owned construction firm Istaka Karya were killed when they were attacked on Sunday by rebels in the mountainous Nduga municipality.
Based on witness reports, authorities estimated that 31 construction workers were killed while the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), in posts on social media, claimed they killed 24 workers.
Over 10 people, including at least seven employees of Istaka Karya, had managed to escape during the clashes between the separatists and police.
Meanwhile, Papua police chief Martuani Sormin Siregar told Indonesian media that the casualties include a soldier, who died on Monday night when the separatists had attacked a military post.
The exact number of fatalities during the clashes is still unknown.
TPNPB spokesperson Sebby Sambom attributed the attack to one of its squads and claimed the workers, who were killed were part of the armed forces.
Speaking to EFE on telephone, Sambom said the action was a rejection of all construction by Indonesia in Papua, including infrastructure and roads.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has made the development of Papua and other remote areas of the archipelago one of his priorities.
Mega infrastructure development projects, including nearly 4,600 kilometers (2,858 miles) of roads, have been planned for Papua.
The western half of the island of New Guinea belongs to Indonesia, a territory rich in natural resources and the scene of a separatist conflict since its independence from the Netherlands in 1963.
The eastern half of the island is the independent state of Papua New Guinea.