December 17 2009 at 5:17 AM No score for this post
Papuan rebel leader believed to be dead
December 17, 2009
JAKARTA: Indonesian police say they shot and killed the Papuan rebel leader Kelly Kwalik in a raid on a house early yesterday morning, amid claims he was behind the shootings near the Freeport mine this year that led to the death of an Australian project manager, Drew Grant.
His apparent death - it has yet to be confirmed by DNA testing - prompted protests across Timika late yesterday, with hundreds pouring on to the streets.
What led to Mr Kwalik's slaying remains shrouded in mystery, not least because he held a convivial meeting with the Papuan police chief, Bagus Ekodanto, only months earlier to discuss Mr Grant's death and the Freeport mine shootings. He denied any role in the attacks, an assurance that Inspector-General Ekodanto told the Herald that he believed.
But, according to a national police spokesman, Nanan Soekarna, police had recently received information from a man named as Simon Benai that Mr Kwalik orchestrated a spate of sniper attacks near Freeport between July and November. At least three died, while more than dozen were injured in the attacks, which shut down the mine, one of the world's most profitable. Mr Benai's information also led them to a house in Timika early yesterday morning.
When the police arrived at 3am, they found Mr Kwalik in a room in the back of the house, a Papuan police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Agus Rianto, said.
''He held a revolver and he was pointing it at police. We shot him in the thigh. He died at the hospital.''
Police said they believed the dead man was Mr Kwalik based on the testimony of five others in the house. DNA test results were expected shortly.
However, Mr Kwalik's identity has always been a source of contention. He is known to send others to meetings pretending to be him.
Mr Kwalik was a legendary regional commander of the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) - Free Papua Movement - which controlled operations in the most volatile part of the province, the area centred on Timika that includes the highly controversial Freeport mine. He was responsible for a series of militia actions against Indonesian security forces in Papua and around the Freeport mine dating back to the 1970s.
They include a raid that seized a group of Western hostages in the mid-1990s and a spate of shootings and explosions around Freeport last year.
Police yesterday also alleged Mr Kwalik was behind the 2002 murder of two US teachers near Freeport.
Paula Makabory, a Papuan separatist exiled in Melbourne who hails from Timika, described Mr Kwalik as the ''true leader of the OPM'' who had recently embraced dialogue as the best path for indigenous Papuans to achieve greater autonomy.
''He was part of the National Coalition for Liberation and he has supported peaceful dialogue with the Indonesian government,'' she said yesterday.
''Whatever happened there, it's likely this incident will escalate I suspect this is a deliberate attempt by security forces to escalate tensions.''
Many indigenous Papuans want independence from Jakarta, which seized the area following a disputed ''Act of Free Choice'' in 1969 and is accused of siphoning off the wealth from its natural resources at the expense of locals.
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