Fri, 05 Dec 2003

FBI team arrives to investigate bloody Timika ambush

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A team of the United States's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is expected to arrive here in the next two days to continue the probe into the Timika ambush that killed two Americans in August 2002.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Thursday that the team was expected to bring the results of the forensic investigation on several pieces of evidence.

"The team will arrive in the next two days and the National Police will support the follow-up investigation," Susilo said.

He said that the two governments had agreed to continue to cooperate to unravel the case, and that the FBI team would work closely with Indonesian police.

This will be the second visit by the FBI team to investigate the ambush that occurred near U.S.-based Freeport mining company in Timika, Irian Jaya province in Aug. 2002.

The first visit was made in June this year, when the team interrogated several witnesses and took back evidence for further analysis.

Three teachers, including two Americans, were killed when a group of unidentified men opened fire at a convoy of cars carrying Indonesian and American teachers near Freeport mining company in August 2002.

The Indonesian Military (TNI) immediately said that the attack was conducted by the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM), but preliminary police investigation suggested that TNI personnel were involved in the bloody ambush.

TNI had denied the allegation, saying that they were in charge of security around the compound and that there was no reason to conduct such attacks.

Washington has repeatedly expressed concern over how the Indonesian government has handled the Timika ambush as so far none of the perpetrators have been apprehended.

Due to the prolonged investigation, the U.S. Congress had refused to grant Indonesia US$600,000 in military aid for this fiscal year.

During his visit to Indonesia in October, U.S. President George W. Bush said that as soon as the investigation was over the military aid would be disbursed.

TNI chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto said on Thursday that he had no problem with the return of the FBI team, saying that it would be better for the TNI to know the truth in the Timika case.

"The most important thing is for us to uncover the truth. We have no problem with the FBI; they can come here and continue the investigation," Endriartono said.

When asked whether he was going to grant full access to the team, Endriartono said: "Please do come, the most important thing is for us to find out the truth," the four-star general said.