Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Indonesian rebels tied to the Free Papua Movement killed 20 people in an attack on construction workers building a road last weekend, authorities said Wednesday.
National police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian confirmed the deaths, saying 19 of the dead were construction crew and one was an Indonesian soldier. The workers were part of the PT Istaka Karya construction company, the Jakarta Post reported.
Karnavian's statement sought to clarify the attack after conflicting reports said between 31 and 28 people were killed.
The crew was working on a 171-mile stretch of road connecting Wamena and Mamugu when they were attacked. The work is part of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's trans-Papua road project.
"After [the gunmen] committed a savage massacre on Dec. 1, they attacked a TNI post in Mbua. The post was actually built to protect the workers and had a force of 21 soldiers," Karnavian said.
"It was attacked and the soldiers retreated, but one was killed."
Earlier, police said one of the construction workers witnessed a pro-independence rally held by the National Liberation Army of West Papua, an armed group linked to the Free Papua Movement, and decided to take a photo.
"[What he did] angered [the group], so they killed the workers staying in the camp," Jayawijaya police chief Yan Pieter Reba said.
The Free Papua Movement, also known in Indonesia as OPM, has been fighting an insurgency to free Papua from Indonesia. Papua, which shared an island is New Guinea, declared independence in 1961, but was annexed controversially by Indonesia in 1969.