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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 11, 1999 - Radio Australia)---The seizure of hostages in Irian Jaya by the West Papuan independence movement has prompted the Indonesian government to declare a military alert in the area.

Radio Australia correspondent Richard Dinnen reports that the hostages were taken last week during an attack close to the Papua New Guinea border.

"The official Indonesian news-agency, Antara, says a military operation zone has been declared along the Irian-Jaya Papua New Guinea border, following increased activity by members of the OPM.

"It's claimed four people were killed and several others taken hostage during an attack near Arso, just west of the border, last week, but the OPM has so far not publicly claimed responsibility.

"Arso village is home to trans-migrant settlers from the Indonesian island of Java.

"By declaring a military operation zone, Indonesia can move extra troops into the area, and has at least four patrols active there now.

"It's understood Papua New Guinea has stepped up police patrols on its side of the border.

"The PNG Government has offered to assist efforts to locate the hostages and negotiate their release, despite previous warnings that the OPM would retaliate at any such intervention.

"Richard Dinnen, Port Moresby."


JAKARTA, Indonesia (May 11, 1999 – AFP/Antara/Kabar-Irian) - Part of Indonesia's remote Irian Jaya province adjoining Papua New Guinea is to be declared a military operation zone where anti-rebel operations will be held, a report said here Tuesday.

Major General Amir Sembiring, who heads the Trikora military command overseeing security in Irian Jaya, said the military operation status will be imposed following increased rebel activity, the Antara news agency said.

Under the status, the military will be able to deploy troops from outside the region to take part in anti-rebel operations.

Irian Jaya is home to the Organization of the Papua Merdeka (Free Papua) which has been fighting for an independent Melanesian state of West Papua since 1964 when the former Dutch West New Guinea became part of Indonesia.

The United Nations gave recognition to Indonesia's sovereignty in 1969.

Sembiring said the military status would not be applied to the whole of Irian Jaya but only to cover regions adjoining the 800-kilometer (496-mile) long border with PNG.

The military has said rebels attacked a village in the Arso district near the PNG border last Wednesday, killing four residents, wounding three and kidnapping 11 others, mostly women.

The village is home to migrant settlers from Java island.

Sembiring said on Monday that the military believed the rebels had been hiding in the Bewani valley that straddles the border.

Four platoons of Indonesian troops have been deployed to the Skow district where part of the valley is located while a team from the PNG police has been patrolling its side of the Bewani valley.

Irian Jaya had been under a military operation status until the status was lifted in August 1998.

KABAR IRIAN ("Irian News")

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