Armed group demands Rp 1b ransom, gold

Armed group demands Rp 1b ransom, gold
The Jakarta Post, Jayapura - 20 April 2010 

Nethy Dharma Somba

A group of 30 people, armed with six weapons, have reportedly besieged a mine in Paniai, Papua province since Monday, demanding a ransom of Rp 1 billion (US$110,000)and 10 kilograms of gold dust.

“I have been informed that they have Mausers and AK-47 [firearms]. They are still in the vicinity,” John Gobay, a Paniai community leader, said via telephone Wednesday.

He said that the siege, which has prompted the delay of flights to the location, is being led by John Magay Yogi, the son of Thadius Yogi.

Thadius is reportedly the leader of the Paniai branch of the banned Free Papua Movement.

Paniai religious leader Neles Tebay blamed the incident on unregulated mining in the area.

“This is because the [mining practices] have been unregulated from the start and so draws lawbreakers to the area,” Neles said, urging local authorities, the public and community leaders to enact mining regulations.

Papua Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Agus Rianto could not confirm the incident.

Cendrawasih military information unit head Susilo played down the event, saying it was not a siege, but that local people were demanding their right to Rp 1 billion in compensation.

“We are still waiting for a police report,” he said.

In Mimika, local authorities have been pressed to act on ongoing conflict between two tribal groups in Kwamki Lama that has so far claimed three lives and injured dozens of others.

“The regency administration has done squat since the conflict broke out in January. Even district administration officials have not taken steps to stop the violence,” Mimika Legislative Council Deputy Speaker Karel Gwijangge said in Timika, the regency capital, on Wednesday.

Two people were injured by arrows in a new clashes on Wednesday as the two warring tribes, the upper and lower groups, launched offenses against one another.

ER Alom of the upper group from the Mambruk complex was hit by an arrow in the neck. Elli Kula of the lower group from the Gapura complex was hit in the thigh. Both were rushed to a nearby hospital.

Hundreds of people from the upper group were reported to be attacking their rivals, resulting in protracted fighting that lasted an hour before police broke up the melee.

The conflict first erupted early this year stemming from compensation demands by the lower tribe for a rape allegedly committed by a man from the upper group.

Ever since, Mimika Police officer Mada Laksanta said, the police have increased their presence in the area to defuse the conflict. Three policemen were hit by arrows on April 15 as they attempted to break up a fight.

— Markus Makur contributed to the story from Timika