Jayapura. Police in the restive province of Papua have arrested a man suspected of taking part in an attack at a police residential compound in the Yapen Islands district on Saturday that left an officer dead.
Sr. Comr. Gede Sumerta, a spokesman for the provincial police, said in a statement on Sunday that the suspect, identified as Yahya Bonai, 20, was believed to be part of a criminal gang known for carrying out extortion rackets against local businesses in Serui, the district capital.
The attack at the home of Chief Brig. Jefri Sesa, an officer from the Angkaisera subprecinct police station, occurred at 4:20 a.m. on Saturday when dozens of men stormed the house in a compound for police officers. The group assaulted Jefri’s in-laws and his wife before stabbing the police officer to death.
They then stole a gun from his house and shot at the home of another police officer. The officer in question, Brig. Lamber Matui, fired back at them, forcing the attackers to flee into the cover of the forest.
Sumerta said that the Yapen Police arrested Yahya shortly after the attack, based on statements from Jefri’s family.
Yahya’s gang is alleged to have ties to a militant separatist group led by Ruddy Orarey. The group has been implicated in several attacks in the region, most recently on March 13, also targeting police. The Ruddy Orarey group reportedly has ties to the armed Free Papua Organization (OPM), which has been waging a low-level separatist insurgency against Indonesian security forces for decades.
The police have declined to speculate on the motive for Saturday’s attack, but acknowledged that the Yapen Islands district remains a hotbed for insurgent activity.
The attack comes ahead of the 50th anniversary of Indonesia’s annexation on May 1, 1963, of the then Netherlands New Guinea. It also comes nearly a year after police in the Yapen Islands uncovered an OPM training camp.
The camp was discovered on May 29, 2012. Ten days later, suspected separatists shot at the Angkaisera police station, wounding an officer. The same police station was the target of an arson attack by a mob on Dec. 20, 2011. After setting the building on fire, the attackers then hoisted the Morning Star flag, a banned separatist standard, from the flagpole in the front yard.
The station was also the scene of another attack in June 2009, when a group of unidentified people set two police motorcycles on fire.