Laksamana.Net, January 23, 2002 06:59 PM
Laskar Jihad Denies Training Papua Militia
January 23, 2002 06:59 PM
Laksamana.Net - The militant Laskar Jihad organization has strongly denied reports
that it is training a pro-government militia group in Papua province.
Laskar Jihad spokesman Ayib Syafruddin says the human rights group that made the
accusation is seeking to stir up inter-ethnic tensions and receive foreign funding.
"There is an effort to set the people in Papua against each other. In this muddled
atmosphere, it's the non-government organizations that exploit the situation. They
always wait for conflict in order to get funds from foreign donors," Syafruddin told
detikcom on Wednesday (23/01/2001).
The Sydney Morning Herald this week quoted church-backed rights group Elsham as
saying that Laskar Jihad had sent at least 100 of its Islamic warriors to Papua to join
a Jakarta-backed militia to fight against the local independence movement.
Syafruddi! n dismissed the report as part of a plot to discredit Laskar Jihad.
"There is nothing behind [the allegations]. This is part of a plan to provoke Laskar
Jihad and to incite ethnic passions in Papua," he said.
Elsham has informed local police that Laskar Jihad has set up an alleged training
camp in the district of Fak Fak.
The organization says the Islamic radicals were sent to help train the East Merah
Putih militia, an anti-independence gang.
Most native Papuans are Christian but tensions between locals and generally
wealthier immigrants from other Indonesian areas, primarily Java, have sometimes
erupted into violence.
Syafruddin lashed out at Laskar Jihad's accusers, maintaining the group has only ever
sent its members to conflict areas in a defensive role and said they would never act
on the offensive.
In recent months the group has sent fighters to join the Muslim-Christian conflict
around Poso, Central Sulawesi, where hundre! ds of civilians have been killed and
several thousand forced into refugee camps.
Thousands of Laskar Jihad fighters also entered the nearby provinces of Maluku and
North Maluku after fighting erupted there in January 1999.
Around 8,000 people have since lost their lives, and witness reports and film footage
revealed the involvement of Laskar Jihad fighters in deadly clashes with Christians
there, sometimes with military assistance.
Syafruddin said the conflicts in Maluku and Poso were beginning to die down,
prompting NGOs to look elsewhere for funds.
"It's this third party that doesn't want Indonesian territory to be secure. They are also
seeking more money," he said.
Although widely seen as the result of inter-religious tensions, the Maluku and Poso
conflicts largely center on issues of land rights and economic opportunity.
Muslim groups have made major inroads as a result of the fighting, particularly in
North Maluku and Poso. !
Jakarta-backed factions of the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) have been accused of
inciting conflict and backing warring groups in the Sulawesi and Maluku conflicts.
The fact that the Papua militias are anti-independence also points to similarities with
East Timor, where the military and government allegedly created and funded
murderous anti-independence militias in the lead-up to the 1999 ballot for
Although there is little support for Papuan independence from major international
interests, including the United Nations, the independence issue refuses to die in the
territory, which was left by the Dutch colonials in 1962, handed to an interim
Indonesian administration in 1963 and formally made part of Indonesia in 1969 after a
Independence activists, human rights groups, many researchers and even a former
UN official say the referendum was a sham.
The Papua independence movement suffered a major blow with th! e murder of Theys
Hiu Eluay, head of the Papua Presidium, who was found dead in his car on November
Papua Police recently said their murder investigation had come to a dead-end but
admitted there was a strong indication of involvement by members of the Army's
Special Forces (Kopassus).
The matter is now in the hands of the central government, which is considering
establishing an independent inquiry team that may involve police and military officers.
Hefty jail terms are being sought for three other Presidium members for advocating
and campaigning for independence.
Rights groups say the military not only murdered Theys, but also has been using
proxies – such as Laskar Jihad – to train pro-Jakarta militias in the remote province.
Syafruddin denied that Laskar Jihad has connection to the ongoing standoff between
pro- and anti-independence factions.
"That's an insult," he said.
However, he admitted Laskar Jihad was present in Papua because, as an
organization registered with the Home Affairs Ministry, the group has acted on its
legal right to spread throughout Indonesia.
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