Papua – On January 8, 1996, a hostage-taking tragedy befell 26 members of the Lorentz ’95 Expedition team in Mapenduma, Tiom District, Jayawijaya Regency. The Kelly Kwalik faction of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) was behind the incident, also known as the Mapenduma Hostage Crisis.
The incident started when expedition members gathered at the wooden house belonging to Pastor Adriaan van der Bijl, a Dutch priest who had long lived in the area. At that time, the owner had left the house while engaging in missionary activities with his wife in the surrounding area.
An armed group, presumed to be members of the local tribe, suddenly appeared at the location. During the attack, the researchers were assaulted, taken hostage, and led into the forest by the group.
Two team members lost their lives due to the hostage-taking incident. Since then, the whereabouts of the Lorentz Team have remained unknown.
On January 8, 1996, the Mission Aviation Fellowship branch in Wamena reported the hostage-taking incident to the Jayawijaya Military District Command in Irian Jaya. They stated that a number of researchers from the Lorentz ’95 Expedition Team were taken hostage by the Kelly Kwalik faction of the OPM in Mapenduma, Tiom District, Jayawijaya.
Efforts to liberate the hostages were immediately initiated by authorities such as Makodam Jayapura and Brimob Jayapura.
The latest information on February 26, 1996, indicated that the hostages were allegedly in a cave known as the “bat cave.” Its reported location was at a height of seven meters and could only be accessed via a ladder.
Several days later, Kogoya and Kwalik, leaders of the OPM group, issued a statement affirming that they would not release the hostages unless the government recognized the independence of the West Papua Republic.
The incident known as the Mapenduma Hostage Crisis continues to evoke sorrow and controversy to this day, leaving a deep wound in the hearts of the people. This event stands as one of the tragedies illustrating a series of atrocities committed by separatist groups in Papua against civilians, including indigenous Papuans. The act of hostage-taking, resulting in loss of life and depriving the Lorentz ’95 Expedition team of their freedom, stands out sharply in the history of conflict in Papua.
In this context, many feel compelled to assess the negative impact caused by the radical and violent actions of the OPM. The abduction and hostage-taking of the researchers, who were supposed to contribute positively to knowledge and community welfare, demonstrate that separatist groups are not hesitant to use violent tactics to voice their political aspirations.