Police kill eight in West Papua separatist violence

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The Independent Online

Indonesian police seized the headquarters of the independence movement in the province of West Papua yesterday, the day after eight people were killed in battles between security forces and local rebels armed with bows and arrows.

Indonesian police seized the headquarters of the independence movement in the province of West Papua yesterday, the day after eight people were killed in battles between security forces and local rebels armed with bows and arrows.

The killings took place on Saturday in the town of Merauke, a few miles from the international border with Papua New Guinea, after police pulled down the Morning Star flag, which West Papuans regard as a symbol of their illegally occupied state. Seven of the dead were Papuans shot by police bullets; the eighth victim died from an arrow wound.

A few hours later, in the early hours of yesterday, some 50 people were arrested in the provincial capital, Jayapura, when police raided the culture centre where the Papua Taskforce has its headquarters. It was the largest in a series of recent arrests of pro-independence activists, who have been escalating their activities in the face of increased opposition by the Indonesian authorities.

Last Friday was the 39th anniversary of an independence declaration by Papuan leaders in the cultural centre building. The declaration was not acknowledged internationally and eight years later, West Papua, formerly controlled by the Dutch, was incorporated into Indonesia after a so-called "act of free choice" by an assembly of chieftains hand-picked by Jakarta.

More than 60 people have been arrested in the last five days. Witnesses in Jayapura said a number of those detained were covered in blood, after apparently being beaten with police truncheons.

"We have to be tough but professional in persuading the Papuans not to raisetheir flags," said the provinical police chief, Brigadier-General Sylvanus Wenas.

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