Search continues for missing soldier in Papua

Search continues for missing soldier in Papua

Commander of the Mimika District Military Command, Lt.Col. Yoga Cahya Prasetya. (ANTARA/Evarianus Supar)

Timika, Papua (ANTARA) - Search efforts continued on Saturday for an Indonesian soldier who went missing during a routine patrol in Utikini village, Tembagapura subdistrict, Mimika district, Papua province on November 17, 2020.

The Indonesian military (TNI) also requested the local community and religious leaders in Banti and Utikini Lama villages, Tembagapura subdistrict to join the search for Private-2 Hengki Sumarlin Zai.

On Saturday, the search efforts entered the 11th day, but Zai remained to be found, Commander of the Mimika District Military Command, Lt.Col. Yoga Cahya Prasetya, said.

“In the search mission, we are engaging the community and religious figures in Banti and Utikini villages because they may be more familiar with the search area,” he added.

Considering the difficult geographical conditions in the search area, the TNI has also appealed to the Timika Search and Rescue (SAR) Agency and gold and copper mining firm PT Freeport Indonesia's emergency response group to join the search mission.

"If a helicopter is dispatched to support the search efforts, it may help trace the missing soldier farther along the riverbank," Prasetya said, adding that the SAR’s mission would continue until further notice.

Private-2 Hengky Sumarlin Zai was declared missing in action on Tuesday (November 17, 2020). He was found missing soon after joining a routine patrol with 14 other TNI soldiers along the Kabur riverbank in Utikini village.

During the patrol, Zai was assigned as the front surveillance officer. He and nine other soldiers were patrolling the riverbank, while the remaining soldiers were positioned around the riverbank.

While walking near the riverbank, Zai and his team came upon a traditional hut, locally called “honai”, and spotted a man running away from it. The man had apparently seen the soldiers approach the hut.

Zai and his colleagues chased the man. After the soldiers regrouped at the end of the patrol, Zai was found missing.

The missing soldier was wearing a military uniform, a bullet-proof vest, and a helmet. He was also carrying an SS2 V4 rifle bearing the registration number 01-4296.

Over the past few months, the Indonesian province of Papua has witnessed a spurt in violence, with armed Papuan groups in the districts of Intan Jaya and Nduga targeting civilians and security personnel.

Intan Jaya recorded its bloodiest month in September this year, with armed groups launching a series of attacks in the area that claimed the lives of two soldiers and two civilians and injured two others.

The notorious armed groups in the Indonesian province continued their acts of terror in October and November.

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On October 9, 2020, for instance, an armed group ambushed a joint fact-finding team (TGPF) formed by the government to investigate a recent shooting in Mamba village, Sugapa sub-district.

In the incident, a TGPF member -- Gadjah Mada University (UGM) lecturer Bambang Purwoko -- was shot in the leg, while a TNI soldier -- First Sgt Faisal Akbar of the Hitadipa Task Force -- sustained injuries on the waist.

On November 20, 2020, two 16-year-old students named Atanius Murib and Manus Murib were assaulted by unknown armed attackers in Ilaga sub-district, Puncak district, Papua province. Atanius was killed, while Manus sustained serious gunshot wounds.

The Advocate for Papua Policy and Human Rights (PAK HAM) condemned the fatal shooting. (INE)

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