Hundreds leave Papua villages in separatist standoff

Nov 20, 2017

Indonesian police say hundreds more people have left villages in easternmost Papua that were at the center of clashes with separatists

JAYAPURA, Indonesia — Hundreds more people have left villages in Papua that were at the center of clashes with separatists, Indonesian police said Monday.

It was the second evacuation from the region near the U.S.-owned Grasberg gold and copper mine in a week.

Papua police chief Boy Rafli Amar said about 800 villagers were bused to the town of Timika and are being accommodated in a local hall.

"They finally asked to be evacuated or relocated because the conditions there were traumatizing," Amar said.

Security forces appeared to gain the upper hand in the standoff with separatists on Friday and evacuated more than 340 people who were migrants from other regions.

Two people were killed in Friday's security operation. Indonesia's military said they were separatists while a spokesman for the National Liberation Army of West Papua said they were civilians.

Tensions in the region near the mine have escalated in the past several weeks. A series of attacks by suspected separatists have killed two policemen and injured more than half a dozen others.

A low-level insurgency for independence has simmered in Papua since it was annexed by Indonesia in the early 1960s.

The region, which makes up the western half of the island of New Guinea, was formally incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 following a U.N.-sponsored ballot of tribal leaders that has since been dismissed as a sham.

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