Freeport-McMoRan Grasberg mine

The US-owned Freeport-McMoRan Grasberg gold and copper mine is one of the biggest in the world. Photo: Mine.com

A West Papuan leader in Vanuatu, Mr Andy Ayamiseba, has publicly on his facebook called for armed resistance in West Papua with pictures of armed West Papuans.

His call, made on Sunday, coincidentally comes on the heels of the stand off between West Papuan freedom fighters and Indonesian forces.

On Friday the Jakarta Post reported that Indonesian authorities and armed separatists were locked in a tense standoff near a huge US-owned Freeport-McMoRan mine in eastern Papua province, in Mimika Regency, with both sides blaming each other for what police claimed was a hostage crisis.

The Freeport-McMoRan’s Grasberg gold and copper mine is one of the biggest in the world.

The Jakarta Post stated that 700 heavily armed Indonesian military personnel encircled two villages near US firm Freeport-McMoRan’s gold and copper mine, where they claimed an armed separatist group linked to the Free Papua Movement (OPM), was keeping 1,300 residents against their will.

This allegation against the armed separatists was later denied.

The Post continued that backers of the group and an official at Indonesia’s human rights body said the gunmen were not holding locals hostage but rather, protecting residents from the police and military.

This area is out-of-bounds to foreign journalists, unless a special permission is issued by the Indonesian Government, so information obtained by the international media is from local authorities or individuals close to where the stand off was taking place.

While Jakarta Post reported 700 armed military personnel, yesterday the news agency, Reuters, through Radio New Zealand, reported that officials on Saturday said about 200 police and military personnel had been deployed in preparation to secure the area by force, if necessary.

The report further stated that on Friday, the OPM-linked group denied occupying villages near the mine, but said it was “at war” with the police, military, and Freeport.

Jakarta Post quoted Natalius Pigai, an official with the National Human Rights Commission, saying that the villagers feared the military and suggested it was waging a public relations campaign to portray the separatists as criminals.

“People are terrified, that’s why (the Free Papua group) are standing guard...so the military cannot enter,” he said, adding that many of the gunmen had family members in the villages.

“I assure you there is no hostage situation. It is impossible (they) would hold their own relatives hostage.”

Reuters and Radio New Zealand reported that “a state of emergency has been declared in the area and security stepped up after a string of shootings since August 17 that killed one police officer and wounded six”.

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