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JAKARTA, Indonesia (January 22, 2001 – Joyo Indonesian News/AP/TAPOL)---Separatist rebels in Indonesia's troubled Irian Jaya province are threatening to kill 18 people, including three South Koreans, they have been holding hostage for almost two weeks, police said Monday.

A senior officer read the note containing the threat.

"The hostages will be murdered if soldiers and police launch an operation for their release," he said from the provincial capital, Jayapura.

An envoy for the rebels gave the message to a government negotiation team, the Jakarta-based Suara Pembaruan daily reported.

The insurgents are demanding the withdrawal of government forces and US$1 million in compensation for logging operations in the area.

The hostages, three managers and 15 employees of the South Korean logging company PT Korindo, are said to be in good condition.

Regional police chief Col. Kusnadi said PT Korindo was paying for regular food parcels dropped by helicopter over the rebel camp.

The hostages are being held near Merauke on the border with Papua New Guinea. They are believed to be the captives of a faction of the separatist Free Papua Movement.

The South Korean embassy in Jakarta has sent a representative to the remote region to meet local police and military officials, spokesman Song Min Hyeon said.

In January 1996, separatists abducted 26 people, including seven Europeans, in the province.

After holding them in jungle camps for four months, they released 15, while nine others were rescued by troops. Two Indonesians were hacked to death by the rebels during the rescue operation.

Separatists have been fighting for independence in Irian Jaya since Indonesia occupied the former Dutch colony in 1963.

The province, also known as West Papua, takes up the western half of New Guinea island northeast of Jakarta.

Paul Barber TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 25 Plovers Way, Alton Hampshire GU34 2JJ Tel/Fax: 01420 80153 Email: [email protected]  Internet: www.gn.apc.org/tapol 

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