08/19/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Freeport Tense After Latest Ambush

PT.Freeport Indonesia has been gripped by tension after gunmen again ambushed police near its Grasberg gold and copper mine in Papua on Wednesday. The latest incident was the fifth shooting in as many days along the road between the town of Timika and the mine. Three people have been killed in the attack.
Papua Police Chief Insp.Gen.F.X. Bagus Ekodanto said one officer from the police's Mobile Brigade had been admitted to hospital after Wednesday's incident, but provided no further details. However reliable police sources, who requested anonymity, said five policemen were wounded in the latest incident. Bagus said the attack took place on Mile 54 of the road at around 2:30 pm. Local time and that police were searching nearby jungle for the gunmen.
"The situation is tension near the scene. Freeport workers are not allowed to return to the mine at Tembagapura. They have been sent home", Bagus said. The stretch of road between Mile 50 and Mile 68 leading to the Grasberg mine has been temporally closed, preventing cargo car from supplying logistics to Tembagapura, said Mindo Pangaribuan, spokesmen for the Indonesian subsidiary of Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold, Inc.
However, he said Wednesday that operations at Grasberg were running as normal, with hundreds of workers stationed at the site. Mindo confirmed reports that gunmen also launched an attrack on a Freeport vehicle close to Timika at noon on Tuesday, but that no one was hurt.
A 29-year-old Australian, an Indonesian security guard and a policeman died in ambushes over the weekend in the same area where two American teachers and their Indonesian colleague were killed in a 2002 attack. The spate of recent ambushes has prompted the National Police to prepare a "special operation" to fight the gunmen. The planned operation is aimed at identifying and capturing the culprits, National Police spokesman Brig.Gen. Sulistyo Ishak said in Jakarta on Wednesday.
"We will start by combing areas within 29 districts to find those behind the attacks", said Ishak. More than 60 police personnel, including officers from the Mobile Brigade, the special detachment 88 counter terror unit and the forensic laboratory have been deployed to Papua since the attacks. Sulistyo Ishak said the exact detail of the operation could not publicly disclosed as plans were still being finalized.
Past special operations launched in areas of conflict during the authoritarian regime of former President Soeharto led to widespread violence against local people. Authorities are blaming the attacks on Free Papua Organization (OPM) rebels, but many officials and analysts doubt the separatist group has been the organization or power to mount such coordinated ambushes.


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