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Indonesia Arrests 12 Papuans in Connection with 2002 Teacher Killings


Indonesian police have arrested a man indicted by the United States on charges of murdering two U.S. teachers and an Indonesian colleague in 2002 in the province of Papua. Eleven other suspects were also detained.

Police say they arrested the suspects late Wednesday in the mining town of Timika, near where the 2002 ambush took place in the eastern province of Papua.

Among those arrested is Anthonius Wamang, who was indicted in 2004 by a federal grand jury in Washington on charges including murder and attempted murder.

Wamang was described in the U.S. indictment as the operational commander of the military wing of the Free Papua Movement. The movement, known by the initials O.P.M., is fighting for independence from Indonesia.

The United States embassy spokesman in Jakarta, Max Kwak, indicated that the arrests had been a cooperative effort.

"The United States government welcomes the arrest of the suspects in this case," he said. "We appreciate the extensive efforts made by the government of Indonesia to make them possible. Cooperation between Indonesian law enforcement and security authorities and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has been excellent."

The two slain American teachers, Rickey Lynn Spier and Leon Edwin Burgon, worked at a school for the employees of the giant, U.S.-based mining company, Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Mine. They were on mine property, which was heavily patrolled by the Indonesian military, at the time of the attack.

A preliminary investigation by the Indonesian police in 2003 found a strong possibility that the military was involved in the killings, an accusation the military denies.

Local and international human rights groups contend that Wamang, the man indicted in the United States, was working with the Indonesian military.

Paula Makabory is coordinator of the Institute for the Study and Advocacy of Human Rights in Papua, a human rights advocacy group. She says Wamang has admitted that he had dealings with the military.

"He told us that he was in business with the military to get ammo [ammunition] and also the guns," Makabory said.

The activists suggest the fatal shootings might have been backed by the military in an effort to discredit the OPM - or to extort more money from Freeport, which has been accused of illegally paying millions of dollars to security forces to guard the mine.

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