Timika, Papua (ANTARA) - A guarantee of security from regional governments is indispensable for flight operators serving Papua in light of the recent torching of a civilian aircraft by an armed Papuan group, the Mozes Kilangin Airport authority said.

"Security issues rely on regional administrations. If they declare that their areas are secure, aircraft are permitted to take off from Timika," Mozes Kilangin Airport head Syamsuddin Sulaiman said here on Wednesday.

If the security condition remains non-conducive, the Timika-based Mozes Kilangin Airport authority cannot permit pilots to take off, Sulaiman said.

However, if the flight schedules are made available, the airport authority cannot prevent them from flying, he added.

The Mozes Kilangin Airport in Timika, the capital of Mimika district, Papua province, serves several airlines operating return flights carrying passengers and cargo on the Timika-Kaimana-Fakfak routes.

The Indonesian province of Papua has been caught in a vicious cycle of violence, with armed Papuan groups in the districts of Intan Jaya and Nduga targeting civilians and security personnel over the past few months.

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

Armed Papuan groups have continued their acts of terror in the new year. On January 6, 2021, for instance, 10 armed Papuans vandalized and torched a Quest Kodiak aircraft belonging to the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) at the Pagamba village airstrip.

The armed men, led by Sabinus Waker, reportedly set the utility aircraft ablaze not long after its American pilot Alek Luferchek disembarked two passengers, Commander of the Cenderawasih Military Command, Maj. Gen. Ignatius Yogo Triyono, informed.

The torching of the civilian aircraft, bearing the registration number PK-MAX, was a brutal act since MAF planes have been conducting a noble mission for Papuan communities for decades, he stated.

Triyono admitted that no Indonesian soldiers were stationed around Pagamba village in Mbiandoga sub-district, Intan Jaya district, but soldiers were posted in Sugapa sub-district.

In connection with the incident, Luferchek, the aircraft’s pilot, had informed Papuan police officers that his aircraft was torched by about 10 men carrying assault rifles and guns.

The armed men suddenly emerged from some bushes soon after Luferchek landed the plane at the Pagamba village airstrip around 9:30 a.m. local time, Papua Police chief, Insp. Gen. Paulus Waterpauw, informed.

Citing Luferchek’s statement, Waterpauw told journalists on January 8, 2021 that several residents fled for safety upon spotting the armed men walking towards the aircraft.

The American pilot was reportedly ordered by the armed men to disembark from the utility aircraft. Pointing their rifles and guns at him, the men ordered Luferchek to sit on the ground, Waterpauw revealed.

Afterwards, the men unloaded the aircraft's cargo of food and then vandalized the plane and set it ablaze, he said, adding that the 32-year-old pilot had managed to escape the attackers.

Police in the districts of Nabire and Intan Jaya of Papua province have launched a probe into the torching of the aircraft, operated by MAF, an organization that has been conducting a Christian mission in Papua since 1952. (INE)

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Reporter: Evarianus S, Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Suharto
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