20 May 2009

Indonesian paramilitary police deployed to Papua airport blockade

9:07 pm on 20 May 2009

Indonesia paramilitary police have been deployed to retake a remote jungle airstrip seized by alleged Papuan separatists in Papua province.

Various media reports describe a group of about 150 villagers armed with automatic weapons, as well as bows and arrows, blockading a small airport in Kasepo, about 300 kilometres from Papua's provincial capital Jayapura.

The group took control last week and have raised the outlawed Papuan nationalist flag, the Morning Star, at the airport.

A 40-member police contingent was sent today to end the occupation but it's expected to take them days to reach remote Kasepo.

Local police have reportedly been trying to negotiate with those staging the blockade, asking them to re-open the airport but contacting the group has been difficult.

However regional police chiefs have warned the group to end the blockade or face firm consequences from their paramilitary unit.

A local man, Terianus Yeram, who describes himself as the local free West papua Movement, or OPM, commander in the district surrounding Kasepo, has claimed that his group is behind the takeover.