FOUR U.S. SECURITY OFFICIALS INVESTIGATE PAPUA AMBUSH

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By R. K. Nugroho

JAYAPURA, Papua, Indonesia (September 6, 2002 - The Jakarta Post/Kabar-Irian)---Four United States security officials, allegedly including an FBI agent, are visiting Papua to help look into last week's ambush that killed two Americans and one Indonesian as Indonesian troops ceased their pursuit of suspected attackers.

Papua police chief Insp. Gen. Made Mangku Pastika said on Thursday that the four arrived on Wednesday accompanied by the U.S. defense attaché chief from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta.

"They have interviewed me about the attack," he said in the provincial capital of Jayapura.

Military sources in Timika town, near gold and copper mine PT Freeport Indonesia, told The Jakarta Post Thursday that one of the four U.S. security officials was an FBI agent.

However, Pastika denied the suggestion, saying: "I know them as security officials from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta and they’re staff members."

However, FBI agents have started to investigate the deadly attack in Papua by visiting eight of the wounded -- seven Americans and one Indonesian -- treated in Townsville Hospital, Australia.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Canberra told AP on Tuesday that an Australia-based FBI agent had interviewed the patients as part of an investigation to determine if the ambush was the work of terrorists.

It was not clear whether the suspected FBI agent currently in Timika was the one who questioned the hospitalized victims in Australia.

Australian consular officials from Jakarta are currently in Papua to assess security conditions in Freeport and to meet Australians working there.

Pastika ruled out any possible foreign assistance to track down the attackers and investigate the bloody incident.

"We are still able to do the job," he said.

He also said that a forensic team from Jakarta arrived in Timika on Thursday to help investigate the incident.

"They will begin the probe tomorrow (Friday)," Pastika said.

Meanwhile, Papua Military Commander Maj. Gen. Mahidin Simbolon said Thursday that security personnel had ceased pursuing the gunmen, believed to have fled into the jungle near the open-pit mine.

He said military personnel assigned to track down the gunmen had already withdrawn to their respective posts in Timika.

In addition, Pastika said joint street patrols would be intensified around the Freeport complex to prevent further attacks.

On Saturday, around 15 gunmen, whose identities and whereabouts remain unknown, ambushed two buses carrying teachers from the Tembaga Pura International School in Freeport. Two Americans and an Indonesian were killed and 12 others injured.

The military blamed the attack on rebels from the Free Papua Movement (OPM) led by Kelly Kwalik, who has denied responsibility.

International human rights watchdog Human Rights Watch on Thursday joined calls for an independent investigation.

"Because of the repeated failure of Indonesia to impartially investigate such incidents in Papua, Human Rights Watch urges Indonesia to convene a panel of independent experts to investigate the killings," the group said in a statement.

 

FOUR RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL AFTER BEING SHOT IN AN AMBUSH NEAR PAPUA MINE

TOWNSVILLE, Australia (September 5, 2002 - The Associated Press/Kabar-Irian)---Three Americans and an Indonesian were released from an Australian hospital Thursday, five days after being shot in an ambush near a mine in Indonesia.

Two Americans and an Indonesian were killed in the shooting, and four more Americans remained Thursday in Townsville Hospital.

Martin Kelly, a spokesman for the company that runs the Grasberg gold and copper mine in Papua province, said the four survivors of Saturday's ambush would remain in the northeast Australian city of Townsville while arrangements are made to fly them home.

He did not release the identities of the survivors, who have declined repeated requests for interviews.

"Everyone is in reasonable condition," said Kelly, who represents U.S.-based Freeport McMoRan Cooper & Gold Inc. "They are going to continue rehabilitation in Townsville over the next few days."

On Saturday, gunmen opened fire on a convoy carrying teachers from a school at the mine, about 1,400 miles east of Jakarta. The survivors were taken to Australia for treatment.

Indonesian officials have said they suspect separatist rebels who have been fighting a low-level insurgency since the vast territory on New Guinea Island was forcibly incorporated into Indonesia following the collapse of Dutch colonial rule in 1963.

Separatists from the Free Papua Movement have denied any role in the roadside ambush. They have urged the government to allow an independent investigation into the shooting.

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

 

EMBASSY STEPS IN TO HELP AUSTRALIAN WORKERS IN PAPUA FOLLOWING AMBUSH

By Matthew Moore Indonesia Correspondent

TIMIKA, Papua, Indonesia (September 6, 2002 - The Age)---Australia has sent representatives from its Jakarta embassy to Papua to talk to one of the largest Australian communities in Indonesia after last Saturday's ambush of workers from the huge Freeport gold and copper mine.

Consul General Graeme Swift met about 80 Australians living in the remote mountain town of Tembagapura yesterday, where the shooting victims also lived. On Wednesday night, he spoke to 40 Australians who live on the lowlands below the mine.

He said Australia had offered to help the mine owners find replacement teachers for the three who were killed in the attack.

Mr. Swift had also offered the mine owners any other assistance they might need.

Mr. Swift said the Freeport mine, which employs about 16,000 people, used many Australian contractors and suppliers and might have the biggest Australian community in the country after Bali and Jakarta.

With only one road to Tembagapura, Mr. Swift said many residents would find it difficult to adjust to life after the attack, as they have to travel the same route.

"Every time they go down that road they will be reminded of that incident . . . A few spouses have said they will be going away for a few months and some others have said they will go altogether, but not too many," he said.

Australia has not upgraded its travel advisory warnings in the wake of the shootings, but Mr. Swift said he was assessing the risk during his visit.

Issuing travel alerts would increase insurances costs and make it more difficult to attract staff. He said the embassy was anxious not to undermine Australian operations unnecessarily.

On his assessment so far, Mr. Swift said Papua "would be one of the more secure areas of Indonesia."

Several Australian workers have expressed reservations about remaining, especially those with children.

Others have said they had worked in far more dangerous areas, and that occasional shootings are a hazard of the job.

Mr. Swift said he was urging the Australians not to make quick decisions about their future, as many would be in a state of shock and "they need time and space for healing".

For additional reports from The Age, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Age.

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