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By R.K. Nugroho

JAYAPURA, Papua, Indonesia (April 25, 2002 - The Jakarta Post)---The Papua police plan to launch raids on houses belonging to suspected rebels in the regency of Manokwari to search for three firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition that were seized from local security forces last year.

The operation will be undertaken by a team of anti-terrorist police later this month in Wasior sub-district, Deputy Papua Police chief Brig. Gen. Raziman Tarigan said here on Tuesday.

He declined to specify the date.

The three weapons were part of a haul of six SS-1 rifles that members of the separatist Free Papua Organization (OPM) seized during an attack on the Wasior police station in May, 2001, which resulted in the deaths of five Mobile Brigade (Brimob) personnel.

The attackers surrendered three of the weapons on Dec. 27, 2001, after intensive negotiations in which the authorities agreed to accept the rebels' demand for their three unnamed mediators be hired as employees of the U.S. copper mining company PT Freeport Indonesia based in Mimika.

A source told The Jakarta Post, however, that the local authorities broke their promise, prompting the rebels to refuse to surrender the remaining three rifles.

Raziman, speaking to journalists after receiving Wasior community representatives at his office in Jayapura, said the authorities were being forced to conduct the raids as the separatists refused to hand over the last three weapons based upon a "persuasive approach."

"They seem to be playing a game with us," he said. "Now we have lost patience and will launch the operation by late April at the latest. Everything has been designed to minimize the number of victims."

He said Papua Brimob Task Force chief Comr. Robby Kaligis would directly lead the raids to recover the seized rifles.

Separately, Robby told the Post that at least three houses would be targeted in the planned operation, which he said would be conducted by 10 Brimob members in the vanguard, including himself, followed by other personnel in the rearguard.

He accused the OPM members of trying to frighten Papuans by using the three rifles and the stolen ammunition.

Phill Erary, a priest who is currently serving as a mediator for the rebels, said the OPM members were ready to surrender the weapons on condition that their latest demands, namely that the local government renovate Papuans' damaged houses, streets, bridges and other public facilities in their villages, was accepted.

Erary urged the police to cancel the planned operation, which he said would only foment new unrest in Wasior.

He said he was optimistic that the police would still be able to recover the last three firearms through a nonviolent approach, adding that he was ready to help any such moves in May.

"We hope the police will postpone the raids and reopen negotiations with the OPM to achieve an agreement," Erary said.

KABAR-IRIAN ("Irian News") Websites: http://www.irja.org/index2.shtml and http://www.kabar-irian.com 

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