At least one person was killed and two police officers are missing after suspected Papuan rebels fired at boats carrying voters and police returning from a polling station, Indonesian authorities said Thursday.
The attack — the third carried out in the restive region by an alleged separatist group over the past week — happened Wednesday as tens of millions voted in local elections across the Indonesian archipelago.
The gunmen shot at two boats carrying nine police officers and local residents who had just finished voting in Torere district, Papua police spokesman Ahmad Musthofa Kamal said.
The district chief of Torere was fatally shot in the attack while two officers disappeared after they fell in the water, he added.
It was unclear if the missing police were shot before they dropped into the river.
Seven other police officers swam to safety after jumping from the boat, Kamal said.
Police are searching for the missing officers and shooters.
Wednesday’s attack is the latest violence to hit Indonesia’s easternmost province, which lies on the western half of New Guinea island and has been the scene of a simmering independence insurgency since it was annexed by Indonesia in the late 1960s.
Three civilians were killed following a shootout that saw suspected rebels open fire on a small plane carrying 15 police officers at Nduga in the centre of the province on Monday.
The officers were travelling to oversee polls in which voters cast a ballot for some 171 mayors, regional leaders and provincial governors across the Southeast Asian nation.
Days earlier, a pilot on another plane was shot and injured at the same airport.
In April, an Indonesian soldier and at least one separatist rebel were killed near US-based firm Freeport McMoRan’s gold and copper mine in Papua.
The huge mine has been a frequent flashpoint in the struggle for Papuan independence and a bigger share of the region’s rich resources.