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The employment of explosives imported for Indonesian civilian spies in rural attacks remains a mystery

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English - According to a report from an arms monitoring group and images handed to Reuters, about 2,500 mortar shel...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English - According to a report from an arms monitoring group and images handed to Reuters, about 2,500 mortar shells purchased from Serbia for Indonesia's spy agency last year were altered to be air-dropped, and some were used in attacks on eight towns in Papua.

Three members of the parliamentary oversight committee that determines the budget for the state intelligence agency, known as BIN, told Reuters that the alleged procurement was not revealed to them.

The mortar rounds were made by Serbia's state-owned munitions manufacturer Krusik and later modified to be dropped from the air rather than fired from a mortar tube, according to Conflict Armament Research (CAR), a London-based monitoring group. 3,000 electrical initiators and three timing devices commonly used to detonate explosives were also supplied to BIN, according to the report.

According to CAR, an eyewitness, and human rights investigators working on behalf of numerous church groups, the 81mm mortar shells were used in attacks on settlements in Papua, an Indonesian province where a decades-long campaign by armed separatists has increased in recent years.

Certain details of the CAR story, such as whether BIN had received the package, could not be independently confirmed by Reuters. Reuters was also unable to determine who authorized the weapons purchase or who utilized them in Papua.

BIN and the Ministry of Defence have not responded to demands for comment on the mortar shells' procurement or use.

Next Tuesday, the parliamentary oversight committee will hold a closed session with BIN, during which the weapons procurement will be examined, according to one committee member.

Tubagus Hasanuddin, a former general who now serves on the legislative committee that oversees BIN, said the intelligence agency can obtain small weaponry for self-defense, but military-grade weapons "must be for instruction or training purposes and not for combat."

"We must first hold a hearing with BIN to determine the reason. After that, we'll look into the legality of the situation "he stated

According to one witness and investigators working for eight human rights and church organisations to chronicle the attacks, no one was killed, but homes and many churches were burned down.

"It's evident that these mortars were deployed in civilian areas as offensive weapons," said Jim Elmslie, convenor of the University of Wollongong's West Papua Project, who submitted CAR's report to the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner in April. "This is a violation of international humanitarian law."

BIN is a civilian organization that reports directly to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi. A request for comment on the acquisition or use of the weapons was not returned by the president's office.

Col. Wieng Pranoto, an Indonesian military spokeswoman, told Reuters that the explosives were not dropped on the settlements. He wouldn't specify whether BIN was in charge of the munitions.

Indonesian law mandates the military, police, and other government agencies to obtain approval from the Ministry of Defense before purchasing guns, and they must employ domestically produced defense equipment if it is available. The country's state-owned arms manufacturer, PT Pindad, manufactures mortar rounds, which are used by the armed services.

According to a person acquainted with the procurement system, the defence ministry never approved the transaction or any regulations allowing BIN to obtain the bombs.

"It begs the issue of why BIN would want them," said one source.

Another member of the parliamentary committee in charge of BIN said he was personally investigating CAR's conclusions to see whether there was any impropriety. He stated he tried to explain himself to BIN and PT Pindad but "met a lot of enormous hurdles."

He told Reuters, "There must be something very, extremely sensitive about it."

The spokesperson and chief executive's office of PT Pindad did not respond to Reuters' specific questions regarding how the mortar rounds were obtained or who utilized them.

Alexandra Wuhan, one of the company's commissioners, declined to comment on the purchase's specifics, but said: "Pindad, like BIN as the end user, is bound by Indonesian laws, rules, and regulations when it comes to military and civilian arms procurements. Pindad cannot be held liable for when and where Indonesian authorities utilize the weapons. We don't have that kind of power."


The European Union, the United Nations, and the US and British governments are among the clients of CAR, a Europe-based arms monitor.

On Nov. 26, the organization analyzed images of ordnance used in the Papua strikes and formally requested information on the shells from the Serbian government through the country's UN representative in New York.

Serbia's UN envoy, Nemanja Stevanovic, responded on Dec. 31 with a formal diplomatic statement known as a "note verbale." The facts in the correspondence, according to CAR's executive director James Bevan, formed the basis of the weapons tracking group's report.

Serbia's response was withheld by CAR due to procedure violations. Stevanovic and the Serbian UN Mission did not respond to a request from Reuters for the letter verbale to be shared.


The M-72 high-explosive mortar rounds, along with 3,000 electronic initiators and timing devices, were delivered to Serbian armaments dealer Zenitprom DOO in February 2021, according to the article. Zenitprom DOO then sold the armaments to PT Pindad for BIN, according to the group.

BIN provided Serbian authorities with end-user certificate No. R-540/X/2020 on Oct. 6, 2020, at the start of the procurement process, confirming that they would be the exclusive users of the items in the consignment and that the munitions would not be transferred or sold to other parties without Serbian authorities' permission, according to the report. According to the investigation, the Serbian government notified CAR that no request for the weapons transfer had been made before to the Papua attack.

According to CAR's assessment, Serbia confirmed that the lot numbers on the shells used in Papua matched those purchased by BIN.

The mortar rounds' matching lot numbers, the transfer of the armaments cargo to BIN, and whether BIN complied with the end-user certificate are among the facts of the story that Reuters was unable to independently check. Reuters couldn't figure out who modified the mortar rounds or why BIN bought the timers and igniters.

Although could not independently confirm the firearms had landed in BIN's possession, CAR said BIN had presented the Serbian authorities with a "delivery verification certification."

An official from Serbia's Ministry of Trade's arms-control unit in Belgrade, as well as the country's embassy in Jakarta, did not respond to Reuters' request for comment. Requests for comment from Krusik and Zenitprom DOO were not returned.


Since 1969, when the former Dutch colony of Papua became part of Indonesia after a UN-supervised ballot involving just about 1,025 people, an independence struggle has simmered in resource-rich Papua.

According to a statement released by three United Nations special rapporteurs in March, the security situation in Papua has "dramatically deteriorated" since rebels assassinated the chief of BIN's Papua office in an ambush in April 2021. They claimed the government engaged in "serious abuses" between April and November of last year. Their remark was rejected by the Indonesian government.

According to an eyewitness questioned by Reuters, human rights investigators, and numerous local church leaders, helicopters and drones fired upon and dropped explosives on eight communities in the Kiwirok district over several days starting on Oct. 10, 2021.

"They used drones to drop explosives," Pastor Yahya Uopmabin told Reuters, adding that he was watching the assault from neighboring mountains, where many villagers had fled. "Houses of worship and residences were on fire."

Eneko Bahabol, a Papuan investigator working for a group of eight human rights and religious organizations, said 32 mortar rounds were thrown, five of which did not detonate. The unexploded bullets have been photographed by Reuters.

The mortar shells have the marks of the Serbian state-owned arms manufacturer, according to CAR pictures. The mortar rounds carried Krusic insignia, according to Samuel Paunila, head of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining's ammunition management advice team.

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