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Suspected Papua Separatists Kill 2 Indonesian Soldiers - 2003-04-04


Two Indonesian soldiers are dead in Papua province after suspected members of a separatist group raided stored military weapons. Papua is Indonesia's eastern-most province and the site of more than 30 years of fighting between separatists and Indonesian troops. Officials say soldiers came upon at least 10 men breaking into a weapons storage facility at a military base in the town of Wamena. The two groups exchanged fire and two Indonesian soldiers were killed. Officials believe the break-in was the work of the separatist Free Papua Movement, or OPM. The rebels have been fighting for Papua's independence from Indonesia since the 1960s.

Officials have not said how many weapons were stored on the base, but say separatists stole about 15 rifles, which is less than the total number stored there. Papua province was grafted onto Indonesia after a special referendum in 1969, which was approved by the United Nations. But independence leaders say the voting was rigged. Independence advocates are now asking the United Nations to review the ballot results.

Located about 3,700 kilometers east of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, Papua province makes up the western half of the island of Papua New Guinea. The province is rich in natural resources, including the world's largest copper and gold deposit.