Mystery surrounds how ammunition imported for Indonesian civilian spies was used in attacks on villages

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JAKARTA, June 3 (Reuters) – Nearly 2,500 Serbian mortar shells purchased for the Indonesian spy agency last year have been converted for airdrop, and some have been used in attacks on eight villages in Papua, according to a report by an arms monitoring group and photos provided to Reuters.

The alleged procurement of the state intelligence agency, known as BIN, was not disclosed to the parliamentary oversight committee which approves its budget, three members told Reuters.

London-based monitoring group Conflict Armament Research (CAR) said the mortar shells were made by Serbian state arms manufacturer Krusik and later modified to be air-dropped rather than fired from a tube of mortar. He said the weapons sent to BIN also included 3,000 electronic initiators and three timing devices typically used to detonate explosives.

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The 81mm mortar shells were used in October attacks on villages in Papua, an Indonesian province where a decades-long campaign by armed separatists has accelerated in recent years, according to CAR, an eyewitness , and human rights investigators working for several churches. groups.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm certain aspects of the CAR report, including whether BIN had received the shipment. Reuters also could not establish who authorized the purchase of the ammunition or who used it in Papua.

BIN and the Department of Defense did not respond to requests for comment on the purchase or use of the mortar shells.

The parliamentary control committee is holding a closed hearing next week with BIN, and the purchase of arms will be discussed, a member of the committee said.

Tubagus Hasanuddin, a former general who also sits on the parliamentary committee that oversees the BIN, said the intelligence agency can acquire small arms for its operatives’ self-defense, but any military-grade weapons “must be within educational or training purposes and not for combat”.

“We must first conduct a hearing with BIN and verify the reason. Then we will verify the legality,” he said.

No one was killed, although homes and several churches were burned down, according to a witness and investigators working for eight human and religious rights groups to document the attacks.

“It is clear that these mortars are offensive weapons that have been used in civilian areas,” said Jim Elmslie, West Papua project manager at the University of Wollongong, who submitted the CAR report to the UNHCR. United Nations Human Rights Conference in April. . “It is a violation of humanitarian law.”

The BIN is a civilian agency under the direct authority of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi. The president’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the purchase or use of the weapons.

An Indonesian army spokesman, Colonel Wieng Pranoto, told Reuters that his forces had not dropped the munitions on the villages. He declined to say whether the BIN had deployed the munitions.

Indonesian law requires the military, police and other government agencies to seek permission from the Ministry of Defense to purchase weapons and requires them to use material produced by the national defense industry if available. . The state arms manufacturer PT Pindad produces mortar shells and they are part of the arsenal of the armed forces.

A Defense Ministry source familiar with the procurement system said the ministry never approved the purchase or any settlement that would allow BIN to acquire the ammunition.

“That raises questions about why BIN would want them,” this person said.

Another member of the parliamentary committee that oversees BIN said he was personally investigating the findings of CAR’s report to determine if there had been any wrongdoing. He said he approached BIN and PT Pindad for an explanation but “found a lot of giant walls”.

“There must be something very, very sensitive about it,” he told Reuters.

PT Pindad’s spokesman and general manager’s office did not respond to detailed questions from Reuters about how the mortar shells were purchased or who used them.

One of the company’s commissioners, Alexandra Wuhan, declined to discuss details of the purchase, but said: “Pindad is obligated and subject to Indonesian laws, rules and regulations regarding military and civilian arms purchases. , as well as BIN as an end user. Pindad cannot be held responsible for when and where weapons are used by Indonesian authorities. We have no such control.

WEAPONS PURCHASE

CAR is a European-based arms controller whose clients include the European Union, the United Nations, and the US and UK governments.

The organization analyzed photos of munitions used in attacks in Papua and formally requested information about the shells from the Serbian government via the country’s mission to the United Nations in New York on November 26.

Serbia’s ambassador to the UN, Nemanja Stevanovic, provided a response on December 31 in a “note verbale”, an official diplomatic statement. James Bevan, executive director of CAR, said the information in this release formed the basis of the weapons tracking group’s report.

CAR declined to share Serbia’s response, citing protocols. Stevanovic and the Serbian UN mission did not respond to a request from Reuters to share the note verbale.

THE TRANSFER

The report said Serbia confirmed that Krusic had manufactured the M-72 high-explosive mortar shells, which were sold to Serbian arms supplier Zenitprom DOO in February 2021 along with the 3,000 electronic initiators and timing devices. The ammunition was then exported by Zenitprom DOO to PT Pindad for BIN, the group said.

On October 6, 2020, at the start of the procurement process, BIN provided the Serbian authorities with End User Certificate No. R-540/X/2020, confirming that they would be the exclusive users of the items in the shipment and that the ammunition would not be transferred or sold to other parties without the authorization of the Serbian authorities, according to the report. No arms transfer requests were made before the Papua attack, the Serbian government told CAR, according to the report.

In its report, CAR said Serbia had confirmed that the batch numbers of the shells used in Papua matched those purchased by BIN.

Some details of the report that Reuters was unable to independently confirm include the corresponding batch numbers of the mortar shells, the transfer of the ammunition shipment to BIN or whether BIN complied with the certificate of final user. Reuters was unable to determine who modified the mortar shells or why BIN purchased the timers and igniters.

CAR said BIN had provided the Serbian government with a “delivery verification certificate”, although Reuters could not independently confirm that the weapons had arrived in BIN’s hands.

An official with the arms control section of the Serbian Ministry of Commerce in Belgrade and the country’s embassy in Jakarta did not respond to Reuters request for comment. Krusik and Zenitprom DOO did not respond to requests for comment.

VILLAGE ATTACKS

An independence rebellion has been simmering in resource-rich Papua since 1969, when a United Nations-supervised vote involving only around 1,025 people resulted in the former Dutch colony becoming part of Indonesia.

The security situation in Papua has “significantly deteriorated” since April 2021, when separatists killed the BIN bureau chief in Papua in an ambush, according to a statement by three UN special rapporteurs in March. Between April and November last year, they said there had been “shocking abuses” by the government. The Indonesian government rejected their statement. Read more

Beginning October 10, 2021, helicopters and drones fired and dropped ammunition at eight villages in Kiwirok district over several days, according to the eyewitness interviewed by Reuters, human rights investigators and several government officials. local churches.

“They dropped bombs with drones,” Pastor Yahya Uopmabin told Reuters, saying he watched the assault from nearby mountains, where many residents had fled. “Places of worship, houses of residents were burning.”

Eneko Bahabol, a Papuan investigator working for a consortium of eight religious and human rights groups, said 32 mortar shells were dropped, five of which failed to explode. Reuters saw photos of the unexploded shells.

RCA photos show that the mortar shells bear the markings of the Serbian state-owned arms manufacturer. Samuel Paunila, head of the munitions management advisory team at the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining, confirmed that the mortar shells bore Krusic markings.

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Reporting by Tom Allard and Stanley Widianto. Additional reporting by Michelle Nicholls in New York and Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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