5 Dec 2002

Papuan leaders investigate reports of Papuans being recruited and trained by extreme militant groups

7:30 pm on 5 December 2002

A Papuan leader says an investigation has been launched into reports that Papuans are being trained by extreme militant groups which want to cause conflict in the Indonesian province.

Willie Mandowen says the Papua Presidium is looking into reports that radical militant groups affiliated to organisations implicated in the Aceh and Maluku conflicts are recruiting Papuans.

Mr Mandowen says it's concerned about the possible outbreak of a religious or ethnic conflict which would then give the Indonesian government an excuse for a military crackdown against pro-independence supporters.

He says Papuan leaders are working to maintain peace within the province.

"What's worrying is the rumour that they had a kind of militia type training of the local people and these local people can be used to create chaos and conflict to justify any military operation..... that's why we work together to try to find out if local Papuans are being used by outside elements of militia"

Mr Mandowen says seven armed people arrested at the weekend for allegedly plotting a conflict during the independence commemorations are Papuans who had been trained by an extremist group.