Kopassus arriving in Wamena, West Papua
Kopassus (Komando Pasukan Khusus, Special Forces Command) is an Indonesian Army (TNI-AD) special forces group that conducts special operations missions for the Indonesian government, such as direct action, unconventional warfare, sabotage, counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism, intelligence gathering and special reconnaissance. Kopassus was founded on 16 April 1952 and has spearheaded some of the Indonesian government's most violent military campaigns. Kopassus' military record includes putting down regional rebellions in the late 1950s, Operation Trikora (the invasion of West Papua) in 1961–1962, the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation from 1962–1966, massacres of up to a million alleged communists in 1965, the invasion of East Timor invasion in 1975, and subsequent campaigns against separatists in East Timor, Aceh, Maluku and West Papua.
Kopassus troops parade in West Papua
Kopassus has been reported by national and international media, human rights-affiliated NGOs and researchers to have committed violations of human rights in East Timor, Aceh, Papua and Java. Kopassus has been implicated in massacres of civilians in East Timor and West Papua and has also been held responsible for some high profile murders, such as the shooting of the 'Balibo Five' in East Timor and the assassinations of Arnold Ap and Theys Eluay in West Papua. The United Nations Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor found there was evidence that Kopassus armed and directed militias to conduct intimidation and terror in East Timor to influence the outcome of the independence referendum in 1999.
Arnold Ap was a West Papuan cultural leader, anthropologist and musician. Arnold was the leader of the group Mambesak, and Curator of the Cenderawasih University Museum. In November 1983, he was arrested by Kopassus and imprisoned and tortured for suspected sympathies with the Free Papua Movement, although no charges were laid. In April 1984, he was killed by a gunshot to his back. Official accounts claim he was trying to escape, however supporters believe Ap was executed by Kopassus. Another musician, Eddie Mofu, was also killed.
Beloved artist and activist Arnold Ap was murdered by Kopassus in 1984
Between 1997 and 1998, Kopassus members from Tim Mawar (Rose Team) were responsible for kidnapping at least 22 pro-democracy activists, mainly in Jakarta. Nine activists were released and 13 remain missing, presumed dead. In 1999, 11 members of Tim Mawar were found guilty by a military court, however they were released on appeal and all but one remained in the military.
Families and human rights advocates continue to commemorate the missing activists and agitate for justice.
Current Defence Minister of Indonesia, Prabowo Subianto, served in Kopassus from 1970 to 1998, when he was appointed chief of the Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad). During the 1998 riots in Jakarta Prabowo trucked in battalions of Kopassus and Kostrad troops to 'maintain order' as 'unknown elements' committed hundreds of rapes and murders in the city. This troop deployment was widely seen as an effort to seize power from then TNI Commander in Chief Wiranto, with a view to succeeding Suharto as president. After the riots and the fall of Suharto, Prabowo acknowledged his responsibility for the kidnap and torture of the human rights activists. He was dishonourably discharged from the military for 'misinterpreting orders'.
Prabowo went into exile in Jordan but returned to Indonesia and contested the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections. President Joko Widodo caused international outrage when he appointed Prabowo, a self-confessed torturer with an admiration for fascism and aspirations to dictatorship, as Indonesia's Defence Minister. The outrage deepened in September 2020, when Prabowo appointed two of the Tim Mawar officers, both serving Brigadier generals, to senior positions in the Ministry of Defence following approval by President Joko Widodo.
In 2001, four Kopassus members were convicted of the strangulation of Theys Eluay, the former chairman of the Papua Presidium Council. They were part of a group which had killed Theys after ambushing him and his driver. The group's leader, Lt-Col Hatono, and three other Kopassus members were sentenced to three years in jail, while a further two officers had their charges dismissed. The Kopassus members faced a court-martial, which found them not guilty on the more serious charges of premeditated murder, because Kopassus are legally exempt from the jurisdiction of civil law. Indonesian Army Chief, General Ryamizard Ryacudu (2002–05), accepted the men had to be prosecuted "because Indonesia is a State based on law" but he affirmed their defence's view that they were heroes who had killed a rebel leader.
Thousands attended the funeral of loved West Papuan leader Theys Eluay.
Kopassus has also been associated with illegal economic activities, like involvement in the trade of Agarwood and illegal gold mining in West Papua and other areas, and the trade in drugs. In August 2002, Kopassus was accused of killing three foreign teachers and wounding 12 others in an ambush near the Freeport mine. It was widely held that the attack was aimed at blackmailing mine owners into paying protection money. From 2000 to 2002, Freeport-McMoRan paid the TNI $10.7 million in protection money, but the company shut down the payments shortly before the ambush. Prabowo himself has amassed a fortune during his military career through controlling interests in logging, palm oil, coal, oil and gas projects, including in West Papua.
A soldier poses in the wheel of a mining rig at Freeport, Intan Jaya West Papua
The Galil Galatz is the favoured sniper rifle of Kostrad, the Indonesian Army Strategic Reserves Command, and is made by Israeli Weapon Industries (formerly the state-owned IMI – Israeli Military Industries).The Galatz is also used by the Indonesian Navy's Kopaska (Frog Troop Command) and the Indonesian Army's Kopassus (Special Forces Command).
Kostrad soldier with a Galil Galatz sniper rifle
Kostrad platoon with Galil Galatz rifles
The Steyr Aug is a “bull-pup” assault rifle manufactured by Steyr Mannlicher GmbH & Co KG. It is in use by dozens of police and military units around the world. Members of the Indonesian security forces are regularly pictured carrying Steyr AUG assault rifles, and the weapon is known to be used by BRIMOB, KOPASKA, KOPASSUS and Detachment 88. An Australian variant. the F88, is manufactured under license by Thales Australia at its Lithgow factory. It is possible that the Australian version is also in use in West Papua.
The sight is manufactured by Swarovski Optik.
BriMob in West Papua armed with Steyr AUG weapons.
Glock 17 sold by GLOCK in Austria
The Glock 17 is used by BRIMOB, Kopassus and Detachment-88. The weapon is listed on the SALW guide as present in Indonesia. Local media sources cite BRIMOB groups training with Glock weapons, and the pistol can be seen in numerous photos of special forces, including intel, operatives in West Papua.
Unidentified forces with Glock pistol, Intan Jaya, West Papua 2022
The P90 is often described as a “personal defence weapon” designed as a compact firearm for vehicle crews, operators of crew-served weapons, support personnel, special forces, and counter-terrorist groups. It is used by Kopassus and Kopaska.
The FN High Power is a semi-automatic handgun designed by American arms manufacturer Browning, and finished by FN Herstal. It is one of the most commonly used military pistols in the world and is the standard issue sidearm for the Indonesian armed forces, including special forces group Kopassus and Kopaska. It is also produced under license by Indonesian arms manufacturer Pindad PT as the P1.
Sig Sauer MPX submachine gun
The Sig Sauer MPX is a 9x19mm submachine gun introduced in 2015. Indonesian media sources indicate that this weapon is in use by Detachment-88 BriMob and TNI special forces Kopassus and Kopaska.
Member of Taskforce Nemangkawi with Sig Sauer MPX, in West Papua in 2021
Accuracy International weapons are known to be used by the Indonesian forces involved in the “Damai Cartenz” operation in West Papua. Reporting by Rory James in 2023 identifies a series of posts on Instagram by Indonesian soldiers holding AI weapons have tagged conflict hotspots in the central highlands of West Papua. A post on the official Instagram accounts for the Yonif Raiders – an Indonesian unit notorious for human rights abuses – states that members of the unit are being trained with AI weapons, including practising “techniques for executing targets”.
Koppasus and Kopaska are understood to be armed with the Accuracy International “Arctic Warfare” sniper rifle. In 2018 Accuracy International shared a photo on its Twitter profile of an Indonesian sniper training with an AI AX308, a variant of the Arctic Warfare: https://twitter.com/AccuracyLtd/status/1042398906406068224
Indonesian soldiers have been photographed trainined with US forces in 2013 with an AI Arctic Warfare sniper rifle. Note AI logo on scope: https://media.defense.gov/2013/Jun/19/2001118267/-1/-1/0/436882-E-SPY66-545.jpg
In 2008, Indonesia reported the import of 48 “AW Sniper Rifles” to the UN’s Register of Conventional Arms (UNROCA).