Updated: 02/22/2013 13:30 | By Agence France-Presse

Gunmen attack military aircraft in Indonesian Papua

Gunmen opened fire Friday on a military helicopter in Indonesia's restive Papua region as it tried to retrieve the bodies of soldiers killed in an earlier attack, a military official said.

"A Puma SA-330 military helicopter was shot by gunmen at 08:15am local time (2315 GMT Thursday) as it landed in Sinak," Jayapura city military airbase chief Diah Yudhanardi told AFP.

The helicopter was forced to return to Jayapura without picking up the seven soldiers shot dead in Sinak on Thursday, he added.

"A technician on board suffered a light shrapnel wound to his left hand, while the two others, pilot and co-pilot were all fine," Yudhanardi said.

"We're still trying to arrange another helicopter to fly back later today to Sinak to transport the seven bodies," he added.

The seven were killed when armed attackers opened fire at nine soldiers walking to an airport in Sinak at around 10:30am (0130 GMT) on Thursday.

The attack came an hour after an armed group shot at a military post in Tingginambut village some 60 kilometres (37 miles) away, killing one soldier.

His body was successfully flown to Jayapura on Friday morning.

National police spokesman Agus Riyanto said four civilians had also been killed in the Sinak attack, raising the total death toll to 12.

Officials suspect the shootings in the mountainous district of Puncak Jaya, a known hideout for armed separatists, were carried out by the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM).

Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said he and other officials planned to meet the president Friday to discuss security in the region.

Violence occasionally erupts in Papua -- the western half of New Guinea island in Indonesia's extreme east -- where poorly-armed separatists have for decades fought a low-level insurgency on behalf of the mostly ethnic Melanesian population.

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