Wed, 23 Aug 2000

Three civilians shot dead in Sorong clash

SORONG, Irian Jaya (JP): Three civilians were killed and nine others injured during a clash between supporters of the pro- independence movement and police officers on Tuesday.

Official sources said that 38 civilians have been detained following the incident. Among the injured were four police officers.

The dead were identified as Mesak Imbir, (30), Isai Imbir, (26), and Obaja Imbir (22). They were brothers.

A nurse at the Sorong state hospital, Albertina, said that no relatives had claimed the three bodies as yet.

Some of the detained civilians said that the disturbance began when a group of people from the North Waigeo Islands hoisted the Independent Papua Movement's Morning Star flag in the grounds of the Immanuel Church in Boswesen on Tuesday morning.

The Waigeo Islands are located north of Sorong.

About 100 people from Waigeo led by Mesak Imbir were supposed to arrive in Sorong on Aug. 17 on four boats, for the purpose of disrupting the commemoration of Indonesia's Independence Day.

However, they only arrived on Monday due to bad weather.

They hoisted the Morning Star flag at 5:00 a.m. local time on Tuesday in front of the church, witnesses said. "They were armed with swords, arrows and spears."

It was the minister of the church, the Rev. F. Mambrasar, who reported the hoisting of the separatist flag, which has been banned by Jakarta, to the local police.

Three trucks loaded with policemen arrived at the scene at around 8:30 a.m. to disperse the group. However, they immediately came under attack. Four policemen were seriously injured and this apparently aroused the officers' anger.

The policemen then shot at the flag pole and the wall of the church grounds in retaliation.

Deputy chief of the Irian Jaya Police Supt. M. Thamrin Simanjuntak confirmed the deadly incident.

Hours later the situation was under control. Locals said they were aware that the clash was due to the actions of 60 people from the Waigeo islands.

The Institute for Study and Rights Advocacy in Papua (ELS-HAM) claimed that 12 civilians were injured during the disturbances. They were Suryanto (shot in the back of the head), Aleks Mambrisu (shot in the right thigh), Yulis Mayor (shot in the stomach and legs), Marten Morin (assaulted by officers), Haler Imbir (shot in the right leg), Salmon Rumbarak (shot in the stomach), Ekonia Imbir (shot in the hand), an unidentified woman (shot in the shoulder), as well as Thobias Mayor, Gabriel Rumbarak, Yustin Imbri and another unidentified Papuan.


Meanwhile, officials and rescue workers confirmed on Tuesday that the KM Supera I ferry carrying 60 people from Ruba-Ruba village, Loloda district, North Halmahera, in ravaged North Maluku had been found after reportedly being missing for two days.

Col. Max Besouw, commanding officer of the Bitung Naval Base, told the media that all the people on board were safe.

The vessel, carrying 40 civilians, 10 policemen and 10 crewmen, sailed on Saturday from Halmahera island for Bitung port. It went missing after experiencing engine trouble in rough seas on Sunday.

"It had been adrift for two days before a tanker towed it to Tagulandang in Sangihe Talaud waters. They will arrive in Manado on Wednesday," Soleman, a rescue official in Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi, said.

In the restive Maluku capital of Ambon, the civil emergency administration stepped up reconciliation efforts by organizing visits to the strongholds of the opposing factions.

Governor Saleh Latuconsina and Maluku Police chief Brig. Gen. Firman Gani visited the predominantly Muslim Jasirah Leihitu district, 25 kilometers north of Ambon, and met with local community and religious leaders there.

Jasirah Leihitu is known as the stronghold of local Muslim "warriors" who live in the villages of Hitu, Mamala, Morela, Wakal, Hila, Kaitetu, Negri Lima and Asilulu.

Similar visits to Christian strongholds were made on Monday.

On Wednesday, both Latuconsina and Firman will visit another Muslim village, namely Tulehu in Salahutu district, 28 kilometers south of Ambon. Tulehu is known to be the base of the Laskar Jihad forces which have reportedly attacked neighboring Waai village three times earlier this month.

"With these visits we want to raise people's awareness that this is basically not a religious war. They have been manipulated and torn apart by certain members of the elite," Firman said.

On Thursday, National Police chief Gen. Rusdihardjo is scheduled to visit police officers posted in Ambon, Firman added.

Along with the reconciliation moves, the local authorities began a major operation to check ID cards. Governor Latuconsina said that the operation was part of the efforts to minimize conflict in the province. (27/34/48/49/edt/sur)