23 Apr 2003

Indonesia military admits torching houses, but not five villages

4:08 pm on 23 April 2003

The Indonesian military has rejected reports that it torched five villages in Papua at the weekend.

The Papuan human rights group, Elsham, says five villages, or kampungs, were burnt down on Saturday, near the town of Wamena, by the Indonesia military elite force, Kopassus.

Elsham says houses, schools, medical centres and teachers' homes were torched, forcing the villagers to flee to the nearby forests.

Brother Theo van den Broek, who heads the Catholic Office for Justice and Peace, says the provincial military commander, denied the report, when he asked for an explanation.

He says Brigadier General Nurdin Zainal told him just a few houses belonging to members of the OPM who had shot at the soldiers were burnt down.

"he says the houses that they have burnt down, that they found over there, were the base camp for the local OPM people, so that was the main reason why they burnt everything over there. ...that is the comment he has given me on that."