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Indonesia Agrees to US Help in Probe of Killing of American Teachers - 2002-12-24

Indonesian authorities have agreed in principle to allow U.S. officials to help investigate the killing of two American teachers working in the restive province of Papua. The investigation has stalled in recent months.

News reports in Jakarta say American officials have been impressed by the cooperation between the Indonesian police and international investigators working on the Bali bomb case. The reports say U.S. President George W. Bush has called for similar cooperation in the Papua investigation.

The Indonesian security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, says there is no objection to having agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) join the investigation. He says, however, that a framework of cooperation must be drawn up before a joint search begins.

The teachers and an Indonesian colleague were killed when gunmen attacked their convoy near the giant Freeport McMoRan gold and copper mine in Papua last August.

The teachers worked at a school at the U.S.-owned mine and were returning from a picnic with their families when they were attacked.

Human rights workers in Papua have accused the army of being behind the killings. The army denies the accusations and says the killers were Papuan separatists.

The investigation into the three deaths has slowed since mid-October, when the regional head of police in Papua, General Made Mangku Pastika, was reassigned to head the search for the Bali bombers. More than 200 people died in a bomb attack in Bali on October 12.

Papuan guerrillas have fought Indonesian forces for more than 20 years for independence from Jakarta's rule. In the past year, Jakarta has allowed the province greater autonomy and greater control over its rich resources, but sporadic fighting continues.