Villagers flee to escape shootings in Indonesia’s Papua

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (AP) — A weeklong shootout between security forces and a rebel group near the world’s largest gold mine in Indonesia’s easternmost Papua region caused nearly 2,000 villagers to flee, officials said.

The clashes, which began February 29 near the Grasberg copper and gold mine in Papua province, killed a police officer and injured three others, Papua police chief Paulus Waterpau said.

Rebels in Papua have been fighting a low-level insurgency since the early 1960s, when Indonesia annexed the region that was a former Dutch colony. Papua was formally incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a United Nations (UN)-sponsored ballot that was seen as a sham by many.

The mine, which is nearly half owned by United States (US) Freeport-McMoRan and is run by PT Freeport Indonesia, is seen by separatists as a symbol of Indonesian rule and it has been frequent target for rebels.

Waterpau said attackers believed to be members of the West Papua Liberation Army, the military wing of the Free Papua Organization, ambushed a police patrol from a hill on February 29, killing one officer and injuring two others. In a second attack, gunmen shot at a police car on Tuesday, injuring another officer.