Indonesian security forces yesterday stepped up the grim search for victims of a massacre by suspected separatist rebels in restive Papua province, having retrieved 16 corpses so far, the military said.
The fatalities, believed to be of construction workers, mark the deadliest bout of violence in years to hit a region wracked by a low-level independence insurgency.
"This was a very cruel act," national military chief Hadi Tjahjanto told reporters in Papua, vowing to catch the "rebels" and "bring them to justice".
The bodies were being sent to the city of Timika from the remote district of Nduga, a mountainous region where the attack happened Sunday, the local military said.
The dead have not yet been publicly identified and the military did not supply details about how they were killed, saying autopsies would be conducted.
An earlier eyewitness account supplied by the military said at least 19 people had been killed, by execution-style shootings or having their throats slit. Previous local media reports put the number of dead as high as 31.
It was not yet clear whether all the dead worked for a state-owned contractor that has been building bridges and roads to boost infrastructure in the impoverished region, the military said.