On 25 April, separatists in Papua shot dead Indonesia’s head of intelligence for the restive region. General I Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha was killed during a roadside ambush on his convoy in the remote Puncak regency, making him the most senior military official to be killed in the conflict over Indonesia’s easternmost territory. The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB)—which has battled for independence since Jakarta annexed the region in a flawed referendum in the late-1960s following the end of colonial rule by the Netherlands—claimed responsibility for the attack.
Indonesian president Joko Widodo was quick to respond. In a televised statement on April 26, one day after the ambush, he appeared alongside security chiefs and ordered the police and military to ‘‘pursue and arrest’’ armed rebels in an intensified crackdown. Indonesia has often been accused by human rights activists of employing heavy-handed tactics and discriminating against Papua’s native Melanesian population, who are predominantly Christian—a minority in a Muslim-majority nation. Yet rebels have also been linked to atrocities and have killed teachers and road workers in attacks over the years.