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Indonesian Military May Have Been Involved in Murder of 2 Americans - 2002-11-05

A serious debate is raging within the Bush administration over the reported involvement of Indonesian military officials in the August murders of two Americans near a U.S. operated mine in Papua province.

U.S. officials say there appears to be little doubt that there was some Indonesian military involvement in the August killings.

But these officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say there are, what one source terms, "genuine disagreements" over whether senior-level Indonesian military authorities were implicated.

Some feel the notion of senior-level involvement is implausible, while others describe a Washington Post report linking top military officials to the bloody ambush as accurate or "right on the money," as one source tells VOA.

Indonesian government and military spokesmen have denied involvement by the armed forces.

But the report of possible high-level Indonesian military complicity is viewed as a serious embarrassment to the Bush administration, which has been seeking to restore closer security ties with the government in Jakarta. It is also seeking greater Indonesian cooperation in the global war on terrorism.

U.S. assistance to Indonesia's military was suspended in 1999 to protest the involvement of the country's armed forces in human-rights violations in East Timor.

One top Pentagon official tells VOA it is vitally important to get factual information on the August incident near the Freeport-McMoran mine.

Four members of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation have visited Papua province to learn more about the killings.

The incident did not come up during an Indonesian SCTV television interview with Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

But Mr. Wolfowitz used the occasion to prod Indonesian authorities to do more to help crackdown on terrorists, particularly in the wake of last month's bloody bombing in the resort of Bali.

"If Indonesians do not do something to stop terrorism in Indonesia, it is going to have really terrible consequences for democracy in that wonderful, important country that I love so much. But it is not something Americans can do for you," Mr. Wolfowitz said.

He said he believes the government of Indonesia understands the terrorist problem. What he said it needs most is more support and understanding from the Indonesian people. He also said it is the Indonesian people who will suffer most if the country does not face up to the terrorist threat.