By Angela Marie Watkins
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania
JAKARTA, Indonesia – Three more people were wounded by gunfire Wednesday at the world’s largest gold mine, the latest ambush targeting employees of U.S. conglomerate Freeport in Indonesia’s underdeveloped Papua province.
Freeport said in a statement that several employees and their security detail were fired upon Wednesday while driving along the road where the previous shootings occurred to help a broken down vehicle. A mechanic and two policemen were shot, it said.
National police spokesman Nanan Sukarna said the attack was carried out by unidentified gunmen and that the three injuries were caused by shrapnel. The culprits escaped.
Two other policemen died Wednesday when their car flipped “while driving at high speed through a dangerous area” a few miles (kilometers) away, said local police chief Lt. Col. Godhelp Mansnembra.
It is the sixth attack by an unidentified gunman on the Phoenix, Ariz.-based company in under two weeks and the road targeted by the shootings, which links the Grasberg mining complex with the town of Timika, has been declared off limits unless employees travel with security. In the same area, a 29-year-old Australian, an Indonesian security guard working for Freeport, and a policeman died in ambushes earlier this month. In the same area, two American teachers and their Indonesian colleague were killed in a 2002 attack.
The series of attacks, which have killed two people and wounded dozens since they began July 11, comes as Indonesia recovers from twin suicide bombings in the capital, Jakarta, that killed seven people and wounded dozens, including two Freeport executives.
Wednesday’s attack comes a day after authorities said they rounded up 15 suspects allegedly behind the recent killings. Freeport CEO Richard Adkerson said Tuesday that six of them had been charged, including a man who apparently acknowledged being a sniper.
Papua is home to a four-decade-old, low-level insurgency against the government, and members of the Free Papua Movement who see Freeport as a symbol of outside rule and were initially blamed by authorities for the latest violence.
However, some experts believe the shootings resulted from a rivalry between the police and military over multimillion-dollar illegal gold mining or protection businesses at the mine. Others blame criminal gangs.
It is difficult to get accurate information out of Papua, a remote and highly militarized area that is off limits to foreign journalists.
Freeport has been targeted with arson, roadside bombs and blockades since production began in the 1970s during the U.S.-backed Suharto dictatorship. It is also regularly the focus of protests by local residents who feel they are not benefiting from the depletion of Papua’s natural resources.
For more information, please see:
CBS News – Freeport’s Workers Again Under Attack In Indonesia – 24 July 2009
Jakarta Post – Shooting incident hits Freeport again – 25 July 2009
Jakarta Post – Freeport employees back in work – 25 July 2009