Jayapura, Jubi – The Serambakom Junior High School in the Bintang Mountains Regency, Papua, caught fire on Tuesday, December 14, 2021. Bintang Mountains Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Cahyo Sukarnito claimed that an armed group burned the school at 9 a.m. local time.
“The arson allegedly carried out by an armed group as it was initiated by the sound of gunfire. However, the security forces on duty in the area did not respond to the sound of gunfire,” Sukarnito said, as quoted by Antara.
At 11.45 a.m., smoke emerged from around the location of the Serambakom Junior High. Sukarnito said that the Indonesian Military (TNI) and police were on standby but could not be deployed to Serambakom because the area, which was flanked by hills, was prone to shooting.
A total of 40 residents of Wambakom Village, Serambakom District reportedly fled and took refuge in the local Catholic Church. Sukarnito said there were women, children, and the elderly among the displaced people.
According to Sukarnito, the TNI and police were shot at by armed groups while helping evacuate residents to the church. The shooting between the security forces and the armed group lasted more than an hour, he said. There were no victims in the crossfire that took place from 09.50 to 11.15 in the morning.
Arson of public facilities in the Bintang Mountains Regency has become increasingly common since the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) allegedly burned a number of public facilities in the Kiwirok District on September 13, 2021. Nurse Gabriela Melani died during the attack, her body was found in a ravine a few days after the incident.
A similar incident occurred in Okhika District on September 14, 2021, when armed groups allegedly burned down the community health center, housing for health workers, elementary and middle school buildings, teachers’ houses, and the village hall.
Last Sunday, December 5, 2021, the building of Oksibil 1 High School was also burned. Acting Secretary of the Bintang Mountains Regency Aloysius Giyai said on Monday that his party had visited the burned building.
“I just came back from the crime scene and there was something odd indeed. Whether it was an accident or someone intentionally burned the school, we are still waiting for the results of the police investigation,” Giyai said when contacted by telephone. (*)
Editor: Aryo Wisanggeni G