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JAKARTA, Indonesia (December 4, 2001 – Agence France-Presse/Kabar-Irian)---Indonesian police have questioned 41 civilians and seven soldiers over the abduction and murder of Irian Jaya separatist leader Theys Hiyo Eluay last month, the new national police chief said Tuesday.

"Up until now, 41 civilian witnesses have been questioned ... and seven others are from the army," General Da'i Bachtiar told a parliamentary commission, according to the Detikcom online news service.

He said five civilians were being intensively investigated but declined to give names.

Bachtiar also said police had information Eluay's driver Aristoteles Masoka, a key witness in the case, had been seen in neighboring Papua New Guinea and several officers had been sent to try to find him.

Masoka drove Eluay home from a military ceremony at a base of the army elite unit Kopassus in the Irian Jaya capital of Jayapura on November 10.

He managed to call Eluay's family by mobile phone to say they had been abducted by a group of non-Irianese before the communication was cut.

Eluay's body was found the following day in his crashed car.

Witnesses have told a local rights group that they found Masoka at the roadside on the night of the abduction and dropped him at his own request outside the Kopassus base. There have been no sightings of him since then.

Human rights groups have called Eluay's murder an assassination but have not indicated who they think is to blame.

The investigation team is made up of members of the Irian Jaya police and officers from the national police headquarters.

Bachtiar said the armed forces chief, Admiral Widodo Adisucipto, had instructed the Irian Jaya military police to join the team.

But he said they had not yet done so since there were no military suspects so far.

Eluay headed the Papua Presidium, which has been campaigning peacefully for independence for Indonesia's resource-rich easternmost province.

The government of Megawati Sukarnoputri has ruled out independence but offered greater autonomy.

The presidium says the people want independence and rejects autonomy, as does the Free Papua Movement. The movement has been fighting sporadically for an independent Melanesian state since the former Dutch colony was incorporated into Indonesia in 1963.



JAKARTA, Indonesia (December 4, 2001 – Agence France-Presse/Kabar-Irian)---Police in Indonesia's easternmost province of Irian Jaya have shot dead a separatist rebel leader after he escaped from his cell, a report said Tuesday.

Elesius Tabuni escaped from the Mulia police post in the central highlands on Sunday and was shot after he ignored warning shots and calls to stop, local police chief First Inspector Muhammad Hilal told the Antara news agency.

Tabuni and another man are believed to have led the rebel attack on the highlands town of Ilaga on October 28, in which two rebels were killed and one soldier wounded. The separatists took over the local airport for two days until troops forced them to flee.

Tabuni is an officer in the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement. He was arrested when he tried to board a flight at Mulia airstrip on Sunday and a policeman recognized him as one of the leaders of the Ilaga attack.

Hilal said Tabuni died as he was being flown to a hospital at Nabire.

The Free Papua Movement has been fighting sporadically for an independent Melanesian state since the former Dutch colony was incorporated into Indonesia in 1963.

Irian Jaya police could not immediately be reached for comment.

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