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Indonesia police patrol Papua city after clashes

Written by: Staff

JAKARTA, Mar 17: Armed police today patrolled the capital of Indonesia's Papua province after clashes with protesters demanding closure of a giant U S-run mine killed three policemen and a soldier.

Yesterday's violence in Jayapura on the northeastern shore of Papua, about 3,500 km from Jakarta, has sparked fears of more protests against the U S firm Freeport-McMoran Cooper&Gold which runs the giant mine.

Last month mine operations were halted for four days before protesters, mostly illegal miners, left the site near the town of Timika.

There were no reports of fresh protests or trouble today throughout the vast province including in Timika, police said. The mine has been operating normally this week.

''The situation in Jayapura and the surrounding areas is now back to normal. Shops are already open, buses running normally,'' police spokesman Kartono Wangsadisastra told Reuters.

He said 57 people had been detained after yesterday's clashes in which dozens were also wounded when university students pelted policemen with stones to stop them from clearing a roadblock.

Papua police detective Paulus Waterpauw told El Shinta radio they were hunting for more perpetrators and called on the people to remain calm and restrain themselves.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono rejected demands for the immediate closure of the mining operation, the country's largest taxpayer, but said he would assign ministers to examine social grievances related to the mine.

The Freeport operation has been a frequent source of controversy over its environmental impact, the share of revenue going to Papuans, and the legality of payments to Indonesian security forces who help guard the site.


New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Indonesia's government to allow an independent investigation into the violence in the region and to ease restrictions on foreign journalists and aid agencies entering the province.

''The Indonesian government should immediately grant access to an independent investigation ... to determine how the violence escalated,'' said Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW.

There were unconfirmed reports of two civilian deaths in the clashes, and rights groups said at least six protesters had been seriously injured, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Indonesia has defended its curbs on foreign journalists and non-government organisations in Papua, saying it was worried foreign groups and churches might create conflict by encouraging Papuans to campaign over charges of human rights violations.


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