Food and aid are being delivered to five villages in Papua where local residents are being held hostage by an armed rebel group, a police official said on Sunday.
According to the police, the armed group, which is linked to the Free Papua Movement (OPM), is blocking around 1,000 people from leaving five villages near a Freeport copper mine.
According to Viktor Mackbon, police chief of the Mimika area, where the villages are located, officials have started delivering aid for the locals in the form of rice, instant noodles, and toiletries.
“Their access to these goods is not yet normal, so we must provide help,” said Mackbon, as quoted by Reuters. He added that the rebel group had not tried to disrupt the supply effort.
He also said that the police were making continuous efforts to persuade the armed group to surrender control of the villages and have sought the help of public and religious figures in the region to facilitate negotiations.
“We continue to try a persuasive approach and dialogue,” said Mackbon.
However, the armed group has said that it is “at war” with the police, military and Freeport; prompting the police and military to deploy around 200 personnel in preparation for orders to secure the area by force if necessary.
A state of emergency has been declared in the area and security stepped up after a string of shootings since August 17 that killed one police officer and wounded six.
Papua has had a long-running, and sometimes violent, separatist movement since it was incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticised U.N. sponsored referendum in 1969.