Sat, Jan 14, 2006 - Page 5 News List

US hails Jakarta's arrest of suspects in teachers' murders

AFP , WASHINGTON

The US on Thursday welcomed the arrest of 12 separatist rebels in Indonesia over the 2002 murder of two US teachers, saying a resolution to the case was crucial for Washington.

"Seeking justice for this crime remains a priority for the United States, and we are pleased that the Indonesian government also recognizes the importance of this case," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

He said the US "welcomes the arrest" on Wednesday by Indonesian National Police of Free Papua Movement (OPM) separatist group leader Anthonius Wamang and 11 other rebels over the killings.

Wamang was in 2004 indicted by a US district court for the Aug. 31, 2002 murder of the two US teachers in Timika, Indonesia. An Indonesian colleague of the teachers was also killed when their vehicle was fired on.

Wamang was allegedly an OPM commander at the time of the attack, which took place on the road leading to a gold and copper mine in Timika operated by US-owned Freeport McMoRan.

The FBI was reportedly actively involved in the investigation of the case, with teams of agents in the province in recent weeks.

The case had clouded ties between Washington and Jakarta due to earlier suspicions that the military might have been involved in the shooting.

The US resumed military aid to Indonesia from last year after it was suspended over human rights concerns, including atrocities in the Indonesian province of now-independent East Timor.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met with the widow of one the murdered victims during his visit to Washington last May and vowed to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice.

"We will continue to follow this case closely," McCormack said Thursday.

Police in Papua had earlier quoted a witness as linking Indonesian army special forces soldiers to the killings.

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