Underage fighters are drawn into Indonesian conflict

In this photo taken in May 2019, and released by the West Papua Liberation Army-Free Papua Organization, men and boys from the West Papua Liberation Army pose with weapons in the Nduga region of the central highlands, Papua province, Indonesia. (West Papua Liberation Army-Free Papua Organization via AP)

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The long-simmering conflict between Indonesia's military and Papuans seeking independence includes indigenous teenagers and boys who appear barely adolescent, highlighting how Indonesia's heavy-handed attempts to extinguish the movement have produced a new generation of fighters.

The West Papua Liberation Army, which has fought Indonesian control in the easternmost region since the early 1960s, and Papuans who peacefully advocate independence acknowledge that youngsters are involved in the conflict. But they also describe them as willing participants who fight the Indonesian state.

A photo taken in May by a Liberation Army member in the Nduga area of the central highlands in Papua shows four males who appear to range in age from pre-teen to adolescent, with four older men, all holding military-style weapons.

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