Update armed conflict in Nduga Regency – security force members kill indigenous woman and take her baby

The International Coalition for Papua (ICP) has received credible information from multiple independent sources regarding the alleged killing of a 26-year-old indigenous woman named Kenmalet Gwijangge (see intro image) in the district of Mugi, Nduga regency. At the time of the incident Mrs. Gwijangge had her one-year-old Baby Raina Nirigi (see intro image) with her. She and three other indigenous women wanted to collect sweet potatoes as security force members opened fire at the women. While three women were able to flee, Kenmalet Gwijangge sustained a lethal bullet injury and dropped with her baby on the ground. It is currently not known whether Raina Nirigi remained unharmed and where the security force members brought the baby.

The four indigenous women have been living with their families in a temporary shelter near Muri Village. On 4 July 2019, at 1.00 pm, the women went to a sweet potato garden near Muruldumu village, where they wanted to harvest sweet potatoes for their families. As the security force operation in Nduga is still ongoing, the women can only go to their gardens at night or in the late afternoon when the fog starts to set in the central highlands. The women hid in the forest near the garden until 3.30 pm before harvesting. A group of security force members allegedly opened fire at the four women as they were working in the garden. A bullet caused Mrs. Gwijangge instant death. Her body was found four days later on 8 July 2019.

It is unclear why the security force members opened fire at the four indigenous women. It is likely that the security force members confused the women with members of the West Papuan Liberation Army (TPN-PB) because the fog prevented clear vision.

An armed attack by the TPN-PB on 2 December 2018 in the regency of Nduga caused the death of 19 construction workers. In response to the killings, Indonesian security forces launched armed attacks in multiple districts of the Nduga regency. Between 4 December 2018 and 30 March 2019, at least 15 indigenous peoples have been killed during the operation, while another 83 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have died due to starvation, hypothermia or because they could not access medical treatment. While thousands of indigenous villagers fled to surrounding regencies, some families continue to hide in the surrounding forests, where they live in temporary camps.