An Indonesian policeman who fled an ambush near US company Freeport McMoRan’s giant mine in Papua was found dead yesterday, bringing the death toll from a string of attacks to three, police said.
The body of Marsom Patipulohi was pulled from a ravine near the road to the company’s Grasberg gold and copper mine with apparent stab wounds, said a policeman who declined to be named.
The body was found roughly 20km from the site where 29-year-old Australian Freeport technician Drew Nicholas Grant was killed on Saturday and a Freeport guard was killed in a firefight on Sunday.
The policeman was apparently abducted and killed after running away from the Sunday attack.
“I saw stab wounds to his neck,” the police officer said.
National police spokesman Nanan Soekarna said Marsom had tried to flee the “unidentified attackers” who opened fire on the police vehicle but fell into a ravine and died. He said there were no knife or bullet wounds on his body, contradicting the information from the Papua-based police.
Indonesia has sent investigators and elite counter-terror police to guard the mine area after the shootings, which have echoes of a 2002 attack in which two US schoolteachers and an Indonesian colleague were killed.
An alleged commander of the separatist Free Papua Movement was sentenced to life in prison in 2006 in connection with those deaths after a joint investigation by Indonesian police and the US FBI.
But local human rights activists have accused the Indonesian military of orchestrating the violence in order to gain greater protection payments from the mining company.
A spokesman for PT Freeport Indonesia, the local unit of Freeport-McMoRan, told Dow Jones Newswires that mining operations had not been affected by the latest attacks as they “took place far from the mine.”
Police have said military or police-issue weapons were used in the shootings but they have not indicated who they believe is responsible.
Papua is the scene of a long-running separatist insurgency by poorly armed local guerrillas who have reportedly denied responsibility for killing the Australian.
The Grasberg mine is a lightning rod for discontent over rule from Jakarta.