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By Peter Cronau

SYDNEY, Australia (July 13, 1999 - Bushfire Media/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---The former CEO of the South African mercenary group, Executive Outcomes, has revealed that his company provided training and operational advice to the Indonesian special forces in an operation to rescue hostages held in West Papua (Irian Jaya) in 1996.

Nick van den Bergh informed the writer that he led a team of five 'military advisers' who traveled to Indonesia to provide training in "special techniques" to KOPASSUS special forces troops led by now-disgraced Major-General Prabowo Subianto.

The five Executive Outcomes 'consultants' also advised Prabowo's KOPASSUS troops on aspects of the execution of the operation at an advance military base at Keneyam in West Papua. Van den Bergh says, as EO team leader, he reported directly to General Prabowo.

The British, Dutch, German and Indonesian hostages were kidnapped by OPM (Free Papua Movement) guerrilla soldiers led by Kelly Kwalik, near the huge Freeport McMoRan copper and gold mine in the highlands of West Papua in January 1996. The mine is partly owned by the British/Australian mining giant, Rio Tinto.

In 1997, Van den Bergh also led the Executive Outcomes team into Papua New Guinea, as sub-contractors under the prime contract of Sandline International, in an aborted operation to capture the closed Rio Tinto gold and copper mine in Bougainville. The massive copper and gold mine in the Papua New Guinea island territory of Bougainville had been closed by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army in 1989.

The KOPASSUS troops were responsible for the helicopter assault on the West Papuan village of Geselema on May 9, 1996, in which many civilians were murdered and numerous others wounded. This was the start of an Indonesian retribution campaign which led to the deaths of hundreds of West Papuans displaced from their lands.

A report released last month by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights details many cases of abuses that followed the campaign. A report is also to be released this month in the West Papuan capital, Jayapura, with detailed witness accounts.

One helicopter is said to have been carrying Red Cross markings while carrying KOPASSUS troops and a number of white soldiers. The long rumored presence of "white soldiers" on the helicopter was revealed yesterday on ABC TV's "Four Corners" program in Australia. The International Red Cross has undertaken to look into the revelation.

The hostages were freed a week later when Indonesian regular soldiers stumbled into the hostage groups during an attack on the suspected hideout. Two hostages died in the rescue bid.

Those present in West Papua for the planning of the operation in addition to the Executive Outcomes mercenary 'advisers' included the British Defense Attaché from Jakarta, a three member team from the Hostage Negotiation Unit of New Scotland Yard, several suspected members of the British SAS, and representatives of the Dutch military forces. The operation utilized Israeli surveillance equipment supplied by the Singapore government.

Van den Bergh declined to reveal the identity of his client, but added he was satisfied with the operation and had been paid for his services in cash. Executive Outcomes closed down in 1998.

The West Papuans have been fighting for their independence since 1969 when the UN handed the territory over to Indonesia following a sham vote by selected and intimidated representatives. In the early 60s the Dutch colonial administration had set up a Legislative Council, adopted a flag and anthem, on the path to planned independence for the territory. This was cut short by an Indonesian military campaign led by Major Suharto who was to later became president.

® 1999 Bushfire Media All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Title -- 2221 MERCENARIES: Executive Outcomes role in Indonesia Date -- 13 July 1999 Byline -- Peter Cronau Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Bushfire Media, 13/7/99 Copyright -- Bushfire Media Status -- Unabridged

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