Indonesia uses British jets to attack tribesmen

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The Independent Online

British-made Hawk fighter aircraft are being used by the Indonesian military in a campaign intended to snuff out the independence movement in the remote West Papua region, according to local people and human rights organisations.

British-made Hawk fighter aircraft are being used by the Indonesian military in a campaign intended to snuff out the independence movement in the remote West Papua region, according to local people and human rights organisations.

In the most serious incident so far, Indonesian soldiers shot and killed Papuan tribesmen armed with knives, bows and arrows in the highland town of Wamena yesterday. The battle, in which Indonesian settlers were also killed by Papuans, broke out after the soldiers forcibly removed a "Morning Star" flag,emblem of the independence movement of the region, formerly known as Irian Jaya.

Tension has been mounting for two weeks in the former Dutch colony. It was absorbed into Indonesia in 1963 and has a long history of separatist struggle. Pro-independence groups reported that large numbers of soldiers have been shipped in from other parts of Indonesia. Hawk fighters, manufactured by British Aerospace, having been flying low over Wamena and other areas where troops have been removing independence flags.

Hawks were frequently reported in use against guerrillas in East Timor before it broke away from Indonesia after a referendum last year. The British Government says they are sold on condition that they are not used for repressive purposes. Human rights groups say that, once sold, monitoring their use is impossible.

One local man wrote yesterday: "Three Hawks are demonstrating their power over West Papua in Wamena at the time I am typing this e-mail. When I was a child in 1976-77, they did the same with Bronco fighters ... they did bomb my villages [sic] and they killed hundreds of us. I have lost relatives ... I do not [wish] this to be repeated in a civilised world."

Hospital officials said that at least seven had been killed and 38 injured in Wamena. Independence groups named two of the dead as Eliezer Alua and Agus Murib, and said that they were shot by Indonesian police, supported by the notorious Indonesian special forces known as Kopassus.

A Catholic priest, Tarsisius Awe, said houses had been set on fire and about 50 people, including small children, had fled gunfire to shelter in the church.

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