Five Papuans found dead after armed clashes in Yahukimo

On 15 September 2023, police officers found the bodies of Darnius Heluka, Musa Heluka, Man Senik, Yoman Senik, and Kapai Bayage near the Brazza River estuary (see photos below, source: independent HRDs) in the Dekai District, Yahukimo Regency, Papua Pegunungan Province, one day after a shootout between Indonesian military members and the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB). After the incident, military and police officials claimed that all victims were TPNPB combatants.

The Association of Yahukimo Churches (PGGY) Chairman, Rev Atias Matuan, and relatives vehemently denied these accusations. According to Rev Matuan, the victims were civilians, members of local Tabernacle Church (Kingmi Papua) congregations in the area, all between the age of 15 and 18 years (see photos below, source: independent HRD). The young men regularly came to Dekai to buy food supplies for their relatives living in surrounding villages.

The bodies were brought to the Yahukimo General Hospital for a post-mortem examination (see photos below). Rev Matuan accompanied the victims’ relatives to the hospital to identify the victims. All bodies showed bullet wounds on the chest, stomach, and legs. The relatives buried the bodies on 15 September 2023 because the bodies had been partly decomposed. The subsequent burial at Kilo 6 Dekai was closely guarded by joint security forces (see photos below, source: independent HRDs).

According to the head of the Public Relations Department of the Papua Regional Police (Polda Papua), Commissioner Ignatius Benny Ady Prabowo, police officers found two magazines and four bullets near the crime site.  Prabowo concluded that the victims were TPNPB members. Military representatives echoed his statement on 19 September 2023. The head of the Public Relations Department of the Kogabwilhan III Military Command, Colonel Czi GN. Suriastawa declared that all victims killed were affiliated with the TPNPB.

On 16 September 2023, the TPNPB spokesperson, Sebby Sambom, issued a public statement in response to the armed clash at Kali Brasa. He emphasized that the five victims killed were civilians and not associated with the TPNPB. Mr Sambom and local TPNPB commander, Mr Elkius Kobak, claimed that the five victims were killed by mines, which Indonesian military members had placed along the Brazza River after armed clashes with the TPNPB had occurred in the area.  

Evacuation of bodies at the Brazza River

Photos of the bodies in body bags, taken after the evacuation

Burial of the bodies at Kilo 6 Dekai

Photos of the victims, Darnius Heluka (left) and Kapai Bayage (right)

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Dekai (-4.8721207953808205, 139.454828860352)
administrative region: Indonesia, Papua Pegunungan Province, Yahukimo Regency, Desai District
total number of victims: five
period of incident: 14.09.2023
perpetrator: other security forces
perpetrator details: unknown
Issues: extra-judicial killings, indigenous peoples
Further HRM News:

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolations
1Darnius Helukamale17 (approximate)indigenousexecution
1Musa Helukamale17 (approximate)indigenousexecution
1Man Senikmale17 (approximate)indigenousexecution
1Yoman Senikmale17 (approximate)indigenousexecution
1Kapai Bayagemale17 (approximate)indigenousexecution