West Papuan Villagers Flee Indonesian Military

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Mass arrests and house burnings in Utikini village

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, January 16, 2015) – An exiled West Papuan independence leader says people from a remote village near the Freeport mine have fled into mountains for fear of the Indonesian military.

Benny Wenda says Indonesian authorities have conducted mass arrests and burned down homes in the village of Utikini.

The police have confirmed that a 500-strong joint police and military force has been deployed to the Timika region in response to the shooting of two officers and a Freeport mine security guard on New Year's Day.

However, Mr Wenda -- who says he has spoken to people from the village -- says the military has beaten and tortured innocent people in their hunt for the perpetrators and burned a number of houses after finding independence flags.

"[in the] last four days, most of the people in the villages have run, and some of them are still hiding because this village, the Indonesian police and military have occupied and all the roads are blockaded and there is no way to go out."

Benny Wenda has questioned the speed of the response to the shootings, when there is still no resolution over the deaths of five protesters allegedly shot by the military in Paniai last month.

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