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West Papua rebels threaten to execute hostages

WEST PAPUA: Rebels threaten to execute hostages

USP Pacific Journalism Online: USP Pasifik Nius:


PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (AP)--Irian Jayan rebels threatened Friday to execute 18 hostages, including three South Koreans, unless Papua New Guinea exchanged them for 13 guerillas arrested Monday, the Australian Associated Press reported.

Mathias Wenda, commander of the Free Papua Movement, was arrested Monday with 12 other rebels after being caught inside Papua New Guinea.

Wenda's group, also known as the OPM, has been fighting for independence from Jakarta for Irian Jaya province West Papua) since Indonesia occupied the former Dutch colony in 1963.

Irian Jaya shares a border with Papua New Guinea.

In a satellite telephone call to the AAP's Port Moresby bureau, OPM rebels offered to exchange the hostages in return for Wenda and the other guerillas who were held for being on Papua New Guinea territory illegally.

Wenda and his deputy have also been charged with establishing and training an illegal army inside Papua New Guinea.

The other 11 pleaded guilty to being inside Papua New Guinea illegally and were sentenced earlier this week to six months' hard labor in jail.

The rebels abducted 11 workers, including the South Korean manager of joint venture plywood milling company PT Tunas Korindo, in the jungled Asiki area of Irian Jaya two weeks ago.

Later, the guerrillas also seized seven negotiators sent to win the hostages' release.

The OPM claimed Indonesia bribed Papua New Guinea officials to arrest the rebels.

West Papuan rebels fear that Wenda could be extradited to Indonesia where he is wanted for organizing an illegal army and other charges.

The PNG Provincial Police Commander at Vanimo, Eugene Manguva, responded to the OPM's demands by saying that Wenda and his deputy would have to undergo the due processes of law, and would not be exchanged for the OPM hostages.

"They committed criminal acts and must face the consequences," he told AAP.

He also denied any knowledge of the alleged bribe.

Meanwhile, Irian Jaya police chief Brig. Gen. Made Mangku Pastika said he had not heard the rebel's demands for a swap. He said Indonesian negotiators were scheduled to meet with the insurgents on Saturday and try to negotiate the release of the hostages.


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