East Papua, 1300 inhabitants hostage to the OPM separatists
They are prevented from entering or leaving two small communities. About 700 Indonesian armed soldiers control the situation. The villages are near an important copper mine, the scene of recent shootings. The guerrillas try to interrupt the extraction operations. The government engaged in talks with local leaders to end the crisis.
Jayapura (AsiaNews / Agencies) - About 1,300 residents of two villages in the eastern province of Papua New Guinea are detained by some twenty Free Movement activists (OPM), armed group protagonist of a long-term insurgency for independence of region. This is what the Indonesian Security Forces say, as they try to put an end to the stalemate.
The villagers have been isolated for two days and cannot leave their small communities, but so far they have not suffered any damage. The authorities say that at present about 700 Indonesian armed military are controlling the situation. Victor Dean Macbon, head of the local police, said: "We have not yet forced our entry into the villages because we do not want people to be hurt."
The villages are located near an important mining estate owned by US firm Freeport-McMoRan's Copper & Gold (Fmcg). The copper mine has recently been the scene of a series of shootouts. At the end of October, one of them caused the death of a policeman.
Since the annexation to Indonesia in the 1960s, a low-profile insurrection has been underway in Papua. The Freeport mine is often a focal point in the struggle for independence, as it represents a large share of the region's resources. Jakarta has long held a close eye on the territory, with a heavy use of military and police.
Government officials today said they are in discussions with local and community religious leaders in an attempt to put an end to the clash. Suarez Diaz, a spokeswoman for the Papua Police, said the group was trying to stop operations at the nearby mine and asked the police not to intervene.