Jayapura, Papua (ANTARA) - Police in Nabire and Intan Jaya districts of Papua province have launched a probe into the torching of a Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) aircraft by several armed Papuans in Intan Jaya.

Nabire district police officers are coordinating with their colleagues from the Intan Jaya police precinct to conduct a field investigation at the crime scene, Papua police spokesperson Sen.Coms. AM Kamal said.

However, the crime scene — the airstrip in Pagamba village in Mbiandoga subdistrict — can only be reached by air, Kamal told journalists in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province on Thursday evening.

The ill-fated Quest Kodiak aircraft's pilot, Alek Luferchek, an American citizen, was questioned before he was flown to Jayapura by the MAF, he informed.

The aircraft took off from the Nabire Airport for Pagamba village's airstrip on Wednesday at 9 a.m. local time.

About 30 minutes later, Luferchek reported to the MAF office that his plane had landed safely at Pagamba village with two passengers onboard, Kamal said.

Shortly after the plane landed, a man, who is suspected of belonging to an armed criminal group operating in Intan Jaya district, suddenly ordered Luferchek to get off the aircraft, Kamal informed.

The man, who was armed, even fired a warning shot in the air while ordering the pilot to duck, he added.

In connection with the incident, Papua Police chief, Insp.Gen.Paulus Waterpauw, had said earlier that Luferchek had been evacuated to Jayapura, but remained traumatized by the event.

"He has not yet talked much because he remains traumatized by the tragic event. He has been evacuated to Jayapura," he said, adding that the police have not yet identified the armed group's members who torched the Quest Kodiak aircraft.

The utility aircraft, bearing the registration number PK-MAX, was owned and operated by the MAF, an organization that has been carrying out a Christian mission in Papua since 1952.

After unknown perpetrators set the aircraft on fire, Luferchek was saved by a priest and local residents.

He was then airlifted on a Helivida helicopter to Nabire district on Thursday morning before being flown to Jayapura, Waterpauw informed.

The armed criminals' attack on the MAF-owned aircraft was detected by Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), which then alerted the MAF and asked it to check the Quest Kodiak aircraft.

The Indonesian province of Papua has continued to bear witness to a vicious cycle of violence, with armed Papuan criminal groups in the districts of Intan Jaya and Nduga targeting civilians and security personnel over the past few years.

Intan Jaya recorded its bloodiest month in September, 2020, with armed groups launching a series of attacks in the area that claimed the lives of two soldiers and two civilians and left two others injured. (INE)

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Translator: Muhsidin, Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Fardah Assegaf
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