Soldiers in Indonesia's eastern province of Irian Jaya shot dead four highland tribespeople for raising the separatist Morning Star flag last week, a rights monitor said Wednesday.
Enraged tribesmen then attacked the soldiers with bows and arrows, killing one and wounding two, John Rumbiak of the Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (ELSHAM) told AFP.
The clash erupted on Friday in the town of Tiom, some 90 kilometers (56 miles) southwest of Wamena in the Jayawijaya mountain range that runs through the center of eastern Irian Jaya.
The mineral and timber-rich province, lying on the western half of New Guinea island and known locally as West Papua, has been the scene of sporadic separatist-related violence for three decades.
"Sources at the Baptist Church in Tiom told us that the local people were singing, dancing and going wild over the flag they'd just raised when soldiers arrived and shot them, without warning," Rumbiak said.
"Church people said the locals were angry, because they weren't warned."
Rumbiak said local Dani tribespeople had hoisted the flag in Tiom the day before.
After negotiations with soldiers they pulled it down, but on Friday hoisted it in another location.
The soldiers wounded another two people in addition to the four they shot dead, Rumbiak said.
On Saturday and Sunday security forces beefed up troop numbers in Tiom, sending five truckloads of police and soldiers and two military helicopters to the area.
Police in Irian Jaya were not immediately available for comment on the incident.
An extra 1,300 elite troops, including an airborne parachute unit, have been in Indonesia's easternmost province since last month as part of an increased military presence deployed prior to December 1 celebrations of an unrecognised declaration of independence.
Friday's incident was the fourth known clash between police and independence supporters since a fresh ban on the Morning Star was imposed at sundown on December 1.
Police shot dead two people in the western coast town of Fak Fak on December 1, and six people in the southern border town of Merauke on December 2. Separatist guerillas killed two police and a security guard on December 7 in Jayapura, and police wounded an independence activist during a raid in Sentani, near Jayapura, on December 12.
Long-simmering separatist sentiments have peaked this year, following a pledge last year by President Adurrahman Wahid to take a more lenient approach.
Visiting Irian Jaya, he declared then that the Morning Star could fly, and suggested the province's name could be changed to West Papua.
The rest of Wahid's government has taken a hardline approach, overriding his flag policy, bolstering the military presence, locking up independence leaders with whom Wahid had opened a dialogue, and refusing his request to release them.
Native Papuans, Melanesian in race, declared their independence on December 1, 1961 as former Dutch colonizers departed, but Jakarta's sovereignty was ratified by a controversial UN ballot in 1969 -- JAKARTA (AFP)
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