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2 Killed at American-Owned Mine in Indonesia


Gunmen have killed two people in an attack at the world's largest gold mine in Indonesia's Papua Province. This is the latest in a series of attacks that began on July 11. Local aid officials are concerned the military will use the attacks as pretext to arrest independence activists.

The gunmen attacked buses carrying employees of the U.S. mining company Freeport, killing two people. Since July 11, at least a dozen people have been killed or wounded in ambushes along a road leading to Freeport McMoRan's massive gold and copper mine.

Freeport is the largest single taxpayer to the Indonesian government. The company employs more than 20,000 people and has extracted billions of dollars worth of gold and copper.

There has been an ongoing separatist insurgency in Papua, which is on the eastern end of New Guinea. The military has suggested that separatist rebels may be behind the shootings, but police have said there is no indication that is the case.

Some analysts believe rival factions of the police and military are behind the shootings and vying to secure lucrative protection businesses at the mine.

Police arrested 14 Papuan men Tuesday for questioning in connection with the attacks.

Septer Manufandu, the leader of FOKER, a coalition of aid organizations in West Papua, is concerned the authorities will use the pretext of these shootings to arrest the separatists .

He said if authorities start sweeping, they will not differentiate between freedom fighters and those responsible, and they will target civilians.

This series of shootings at the Freeport mine in Papua is the worst violence there since the killing of three schoolteachers, including two Americans, in August of 2002. Manufandu said the recent terrorist bombings in Jakarta could make the situation worse in Papua. He said in 2002 the government used the Bali bombing to justify a crack down on separatists.

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