23 Jul 2009

Conflicting accounts about Papua security situation

7:03 pm on 23 July 2009

Confusion remains over how many people have been killed and wounded near the Grasberg mine in Papua's Timika area amid reports that another ambush has taken place targetting employees of US mining giant Freeport.

The state news agency Antara reports that the ambush on Wednesday targetted a convoy of buses carrying Freeport employees as they drove on the sole road from the coast to the mine, killing two people.

However, the Jakarta Post quotes a Freeport spokesman as saying there was no attack on a Freeport convoy.

The spokesman, Mindo Pangaribuan, says there was a car accident near the mine in which a police officer was killed and several others injured, unrelated to the gun attacks.

Mindo added that a group of Freeport technicians and two police officers came under attack from unidentified gunmen when they were on their way to help motorists having car trouble.

Three people were injured in that attack.

A series of ambushes killed three people on July 11th and 12th on the same road, prompting a large police investigation in the remote district.

A national police spokesman says in total 15 people, all understood to be Papuans, have been arrested in relation to the killings, eight of whom are considered suspects.

The West Papua Advocacy Team has voiced concern over the impact of police sweep operations in Timika following the attacks.

The Team's Ed McWilliams says according to their sources, at least 20 local Papuans have been detained and interrogated by police without access to lawyers, with reports that an elderly detainee has been badly beaten.

Mr McWilliams says they're troubled that the investigation process may deny justice both for the victims of the shootings and the local Papuans.

"One of the other concerns is that we're concerned that, as in the past, a consequence of all this violence will be even greater violence meted out against the Papuan civilians in the vicinity with sweep operations taking place nominally against the OPM (separatist movement) but in effect dealing with civilians in the villages and so on."

Ed McWilliams