Indonesia’s foreign affairs ministry said it “gravely deplores” what it dubbed irresponsible media reporting.
The statement came after the Australian weekly the Saturday Paper published a photograph of a West Papuan villager with severe burns and a wounded leg and attributed the injuries to the use of white phosphorous.
“The allegation highlighted by the said media is totally baseless, non-factual, and gravely misleading,” the ministry tweeted. “Indonesia possesses no chemical weapons.”
The Indonesian military maintains it had been trying to recover bodies after a group of road construction workers were killed in the remote region of Nduga.
The ministry said the report had overshadowed “the murder of 19 innocent civilians on 2 December 2018 by armed separatist groups in Nduga, Papua”.
Papua military command’s spokesman, Colonel Mumahammad Aidi, dismissed the newspaper’s report as fake news propaganda. He said helicopters couldn’t carry white phosphorus bombs.
“If the [military] was using phosphorous bombs, the Nduga district would have been wiped out,” he said in a statement to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “All human beings and animals there would have been wiped out.” ****