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'More violence' in restive province

Police dead, village torched in West Papua, reports say Asia Desk, Bangkok

December 6, 2011

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Two police were killed and a village set on fire in retaliation in a remote area of West Papua, according to reports coming from activists in the region yesterday. There were claims that a special operations unit of the Indonesian police attacked the village of Wandenggoback, in the Papuan highlands, after two of their members were shot dead on December 3. The unit was in the area in response to an alleged offensive started by the Free Papua Movement (OPM), which has waged a low-level but diehard guerilla separatist campaign since the 1960s. Last week there were widespread clashes throughout the province between police and OPM supporters who, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the struggle, raised the 'MorningStar' flag that symbolises independence and is banned in Indonesia. Reverend Benny Giay of the Papuan Christian Church in the provincial capital Jayapura told Australia's ABC he had spoken to teachers who were among those fleeing the village. "The police mobile brigade burned the church, schools and houses of the people and people have fled to the bush. They've become local refugees," he told ABC. "It is in response, according to the military and the government sources here, to the two police who were shot." The federal government in Australia funds anti-terrorism activities of the Indonesian police and there are concerns at this new reported crackdown The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued a statement saying it is trying to ascertain what is going on in Wandenggobak. "The Australian Government deplores violence in all its forms. The Australian Embassy in Jakarta follows closely developments in Indonesia's Papua provinces and is seeking to verify reports of incidents around Wandenggobak in the Papuan highlands," the statement read. The West Papua News reported yesterday that an attack on November 30 on police in another village at the time of the anniversary protest, in which one officer was hit by arrows, was in self-defence. “Ordinary villagers from Berap were attacked by Brigadier Ridwan Napitupulu and his colleague Budi, who were allegedly drinking heavily despite claiming they were patrolling to seize any Morning Star flags that were to be raised on December 1,” reported the West Papua News.  

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