Wednesday, July 15, 2009
More killings in Indonesia's Papua
Police battled unidentified gunmen Wednesday near a US-owned gold mine in Indonesia's Papua province, where a recent spate of deadly ambushes has claimed three lives. Five police officers were wounded in the firefight, which broke out as they patrolled near the sites of two weekend ambushes that killed an Australian mine technician and two Indonesians.
The road, which has been closed since the attacks, links the coastal town of Timika to the massive Grasberg mine about 65 kilometres (40 miles) to the north. The mine is owned by Freeport Indonesia, the local subsidiary of US mining giant Freeport McMoRan.
Australian technician Drew Grant, 29, was killed on Saturday when his car was fired on between Timika and Tembagapura, while a Freeport guard was killed in an ambush on the same road Sunday. A third victim, a policeman, was found dead in a ravine Monday
after fleeing the ambush the day before.
Two American teachers from the Freeport mining town of Tembagapura and an Indonesian colleague were killed in an ambush on the same road in 2002. Freeport says it pays hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to the military and police for protection, but the military has recently denied receiving any such payments.
Military chief General Djoko Santoso has blamed Papuan separatist guerrillas for the attacks. Police in Papua however have said there is no evidence to suggest the poorly-armed rebels were behind the ambushes. The attackers staked out their targets and used military-issue ammunition, fuelling speculation that members of the security forces are behind the violence and using it as a way of extorting more protection money out of Freeport.