An Indonesian soldier has been killed while investigating reports that more than two dozen construction workers were shot dead by separatist rebels in the far-east province of Papua, officials said Tuesday.
If confirmed, the killings would mark the deadliest bout of violence in years to hit a resource-rich but impoverished region wracked for decades by a low-key armed battle for independence.
Citing local police, Indonesian media reported late on Monday that the workers were shot dead on Sunday in Nduga, a district in the centre of the region on the western half of New Guinea island, just north of Australia.
A joint police and military team was sent to the area on Monday when they came under rebel gunfire, with one soldier killed and another wounded, authorities said on Tuesday.
The employees of state-owned contractor Istaka Karya were building bridges and roads as part of efforts to boost infrastructure in Papua.