Three killed, four injured in Abepura
JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya (JP): Fresh violence broke out in Irian Jaya as three people, including two policemen, were killed and four officers injured when some 100 armed rioters attacked the police station in Abepura just before dawn on Thursday.
The attackers, armed with handmade rifles, arrows, swords and machetes, ransacked shops, homes and restaurants on their way to the police station.
Irian Jaya Police chief Brig. Gen. SY Wenas confirmed the violence, saying that police could no longer condone such acts and that a shoot-on-sight rule must be upheld against anyone found instigating uproar.
Wenas suspected that the Free Papua Organization (OPM) militia and another rebellious group called the Penis Gourd (Koteka) Taskforce were behind the unrest.
The fatalities were Sgt. Maj. Petrus Epan of Abepura Police, Second. Pvt. David Indra, a member of the National Police's Mobile Brigade in Jakarta, and Markus Pandana, a security guard at the local regional autonomy office.
"Those injured were Second Sgt. Yoyo, First Sgt. Darmanto, Chief Sgt. Mesak Kareni and Mobile Brigade member Second Pvt. Heru. They are all being treated at Hamadi Navy Hospital in Jayapura," said Wenas.
One policeman was killed by an arrow and the other was axed, Jayapura Police chief Supt. Daud Sihombing said.
Following the rampage, police detained 99 people, mostly students from the Nayak and Ninmim dormitories in Jayawijaya, for their alleged involvement in the fatal assault.
The assailants were believed to have descended from the mountainous areas of the Baliem valley in central Irian Jaya. They were seeking revenge over what they called "arbitrary" lowering of the Morning Star separatist flag on Dec. 1, he said.
"We are hunting them," Wenas said, adding that the manhunt order also targeted those who had fled to the border between Irian Jaya and Papua New Guinea.
Police had banned people from hoisting the Morning Star flag in all parts of the easternmost province of Irian Jaya, one day after Irianese commemorated their (claimed) independence on Dec. 1.
Clashes between security officers and locals supporting the separatist movement erupted when police asked locals to lower the Morning Star flags.
At least ten people were reportedly killed in a series of violent outbreaks across the province on Dec. 2.
President Abdurrahman Wahid said on Thursday that he would visit the troubled province on Dec. 25 to attend Christmas celebrations there.
The visit to Irian Jaya will be less than one week after Abdurrahman's planned trip to the volatile province of Aceh.
Speaking to reporters after meeting Abdurrahman at the Merdeka Palace, secretary of the Irian Jaya chapter of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) Karel Phil Erari quoted the President as saying that he would visit the provincial town of Jayapura on Dec. 25.
"In the afternoon of December 25, the President will address a seminar in Timika and he will then fly to Jayapura to attend Christmas celebrations there," Karel said.
Karel said his meeting with the President on Thursday was aimed at expressing concern about the deteriorating situation in Irian Jaya.
Also present on Thursday were legislators representing the province -- Simon Patrice Morin and Lukas Degey -- and Irianese community leader Michael Menufandu.
The President visited Jayapura last year and he declared at that time that it would be called Papua, the local name for the territory.
Separately, Minister of Defense Mahfud MD said on Thursday the government had renewed its warning that firmer measures would be taken to address the separatist movement there.
"The government will never let any piece of the unitary state of Indonesia secede from us. The best thing we can propose is to offer special autonomy status," Mahfud said after a Cabinet coordination meeting on political, social and security affairs.
When asked about the increasing tension sparked by OPM activities near the border with Papua New Guinea, Mahfud said he was not well informed on the matter.
State Minister of Administrative Reforms Ryaas Rasyid, who also attended the ministerial meeting, said the drafting of special autonomy status for Irian Jaya was underway. The same draft for Aceh, meanwhile, is nearing completion and is set for deliberation at the House of Representatives. (byg/34/sur)