Papuans Threaten to Block Indonesia Freeport’s Mine

Tribal leaders in Papua province called for the closure of a massive US mine, as they buried a rebel leader. Anger has been directed at US miner Freeport McMoRan, which operates a huge gold and copper mine in north of Timika.

Some 400 people followed the casket of Free Papua Movement (OPM) commander Kelly Kwalik, who was shot in a police raid last week, through the streets of Timika to his grave beside a local church.

Kwalik conducted a series of attacks this year which killed three people including an Australian mine worker on the road north of Timika. In 2002 he killed two American Freeport employees in similar circumstances.

Armed OPM guerrillas have waged a war of independence for four decades, often launching hit-and-run attacks against Indonesian.

Kwalik’s death has triggered days of anti-Indonesian protests and calls for independence for the ethnic Melanesian region on the extreme east of the Indonesian archipelago.

Kwalik’s casket was draped in the outlawed “Morning Star” flag of Papuan independence, a last act of defiance given stiff penalties up to life in prison for anyone waving the separatist standard.

Some 800 people attended a funeral mass on Monday but disagreements among tribal leaders delayed the burial.

Indonesia gained sovereignty over the Papua region in 1969 in a UN-backed vote.

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Filed under Papua, Separatism

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