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August 21, 2017

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Gunmen open fire on plane in Papua, kill one, injure four

TIMIKA, Indonesia -- Gunmen fired on a small plane after it landed in Indonesia's restive Papua region Sunday, killing one passenger and wounding four people including both pilots, police and a district official said.

The Twin Otter plane, operated by domestic carrier Trigana Air and carrying eight passengers and crew, ran into a building at the airport in the town of Mulia after the pilots lost control.

Gun attacks are common in the Papua region in Indonesia's extreme east, where poorly armed separatist groups have for decades fought a low-level insurgency for the mostly ethnic Melanesian population.

"One person was killed and four were wounded in the plane incident, including the two pilots, a female passenger and a four-year-old boy," provincial police spokesman Johannes Nugroho told AFP.

"I think there were only one or two shots and the other casualties were from shrapnel," he added.

District official Agus Fakaubun told AFP the pilot was hurt in the leg and the co-pilot in the hand. He added that the plane had arrived from another district of Papua.

"The aircraft had reached the end of the airstrip and was taxiing to park when a group of armed men shot at the aircraft from the nearby hills," he said, adding that the attackers had fled.

"The pilots lost control after getting hurt, and the aircraft ran into an airport building," Fakaubun said.

Coordinating security minister Djoko Suyanto said police were hunting for the perpetrators.

"An autopsy is being conducted to see what kind of arms they used," he told local radio, adding that the dead victim was a local journalist.

The incident is the latest in a spate of gun attacks in the region, some of them near U.S. mining giant Freeport McMoRan's Grasberg gold and copper mine, which suspended operations in February after a three-month strike by workers.

In December, unidentified gunmen opened fire on an aircraft carrying Freeport workers, wounding one passenger.

Sunday's incident was not believed to be related to Freeport's operations.

Mulia is in Papua's Puncak Jaya district, which is believed to be a separatist hotbed.

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