JAKARTA, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Authorities in Indonesia's Papua region have detained six army officers and launched an investigation into their alleged involvement in the brutal killing of four civilians last week, military officials said on Monday.
Teguh Muji Angkasa, a senior military officer in Papua, told a televised news briefing the military and police would conduct a joint investigation.
"We have been given the order to investigate the incident," said Teguh, "and if from the results of the investigation, soldiers were involved, they will be sternly sanctioned."
The military is investigating the alleged involvement of six officers in thekilling of four victims, Lieutenant General Chandra W. Sukotjo told Reuters.
The victims had been looking to buy weapons from the military officers on Aug. 22 before the deal went awry, he said.
Papua police said in a statement that the victims' bodies were mutilated, stuffed into sacks and thrown into a river near the city of Timika. Authorities have not named the suspects.
Indonesia maintains a heavy military presence in Papua, where small groups of separatist fighters have for decades waged a low-level, but increasingly deadly battle for independence. The military has faced accusations of human rights abuses in Papua, which it has denied, but investigations into such allegations are rare.
Sebby Sambom, spokesperson for the separatist West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), called on the government to hold the perpetrators accountable or risk further violence.
"If Indonesian President Joko Widodo does not immediately take responsibility, then the TPNPB together with the Papuan people will take revenge," Sambom said in a statement on Monday.
Papua police said one of the victims was linked to TPNPB.
Armed conflict in Papua has escalated significantly since 2018, with attacks by the TPNPB becoming deadlier and more frequent, a report by the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) noted in July.
That was largely due to the TPNPB acquiring more weapons by stealing from army posts or purchasing them illegally from rogue officers, IPAC said.
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