Christian Motte & Farouk Arnaz
Police standing guard outside a clinic where the body of a Brimob officer was taken after a fatal car crash along the road linking the Freeport mine and Timika. (Photo: Tjahjo Eranius, AFP)
Two Shot in Latest Freeport Attack in Papua
Another convoy of PT Freeport Indonesia vehicles came under attack in Papua on Wednesday, leaving a Timika Police officer and a local Freeport employee with gunshot wounds at the same place as an Australian was shot and killed in a similar ambush near the Grasberg mining complex on July 11.
The latest attack brings the number of people injured to 13, most of them police officers, since apparently well-trained and organized attackers used what is believed to be military weaponry to kill Drew Nicholas Grant, a 29-year-old project manager at Freeport.
A police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) officer believed to be responding to the first ambush on July 11 was also killed or fell to his death down a ravine in a bid to escape an attack.
The total number of dead and injured does not include a second incident on Wednesday, in which Brimob Second Brig. Ismail Todohu was killed and two soldiers, one local Freeport employee and another Brimob officer were injured in what police are tentatively labeling a car accident, but which occurred just six miles from the scene of Wednesday’s ambush.
Brig. Gen. Sulistyo Ishak, a National Police spokesman, confirmed the latest casualties on the notorious road linking the mine and Timika, which occurred despite the arrests of 15 ethnic Papuans in relation to what police said were a number of attacks, including the fatal incidents.
He said the latest attack involved an ambush on a convoy of 18 Freeport buses at Mile 51 on the outskirts of the world’s largest gold mine. The two casualties from the attack have received medical attention.
“They have been shot and are being treated at Kuala Kencana medical clinic,” he told reporters, without providing further details.
In relation to the car accident, Sulistyo denied speculation that sabotage was involved.
“I do not know about it. Let’s wait for our officers to conduct investigations into both incidents,” he said.
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. AY Nasution, the head of the XVII District Level Military Command (Kodam) in Papua, denied that the members of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) were implicated in any of the attacks, particularly the military-style ambushes outside the mine.
“None of our members are involved, including deserters or former soldiers,” Nasution said during a news conference in Timika conducted with Papua Chief Insp. Gen. Bagus Ekodanto.
He also rejected allegations that a member of the Special Forces (Kopassus) was arrested in relation to the killing of Grant at Mile 51.
“It’s not true,” he said.
When asked about the bullets used in the attacks, Nasution said they were manufactured by state-owned military equipment manufacturer PT Pindad.
Bagus said that 15 suspects — not 17 suspects as reported earlier — were arrested at Mile 27.
Most of 15 suspects were secured by members of the Amungme tribe, who live in Freeport area. Despite the fact that one of them was a Freeport employee, he will still be questioned by police, Bagus said.
The 15 were identified as Domingus Beanal, 24; Tommy Beanal, 25; Yani Sarin Beanal, 18; Eltinus Beanal, 26; Yonas Uwamang, 65); Viktor Beanal, 30; Simon Beanal, 30; Petrus Kanisius Taturdas, 34; Samuel Totti, 25; Amom Yawame, 30; Yoseph Sikora, 20; Matius Agustinus Yeristono, 24; Bernadus Natipe, 23; Yustinus Boaka, 21; and Andel Kiwak.
Papua is home to a four-decade, low-level insurgency. Members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) — who see Freeport as a symbol of outside rule — were initially blamed by authorities for the latest violence in the province.
Some analysts, however, believe the shootings stem from a rivalry between the police and the military over multimillion-dollar illegal gold mining or protection contracts for the mine.