Unidentified gunmen have killed two Americans and an Indonesian in an attack near an American-owned copper and gold mine in Indonesia's Papua province. 14 others were injured.
Police say the group was traveling in a convoy of cars on a road between the city of Timika and the Freeport-McMoRan mine, when gunmen opened fire. Diplomatic sources in Jakarta say two of the dead are American and a third is Indonesian. Several of the injured are reported to be foreigners. Seven people have been evacuated to Australia for medical treatment. Local media report that all of the victims work at the mine, owned by Freeport-McMoRan, a U.S. mining and energy company. Police say they are trying to find out who carried out the attack and discover what their motives might be.
Formerly a Dutch colony, Papua was integrated with Indonesia in 1969, in a special referendum. But independence activists say the ballot was rigged in Indonesia's favor. A separatist war for independence has simmered ever since. Papua province makes up the western half of the island of Papua New Guinea, 3,600 kilometers from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. Unlike the rest of Indonesia, its people are ethnic Melanesians and their culture more closely resembles that of groups in South Pacific islands.
Independence activists say they want international support to lobby the United Nations to review the 1969 ballot. The United Nations approved the referendum. The mine in Papua is one of the largest in the world and employs hundreds of workers, many of them imported from outside the province. Human rights groups have charged that, in the past, Freeport-McMoRan helped the Indonesian military clamp down on the separatists, charges the company denies.