Indonesia quashes Papua independence rally

Papuan demonstrators wave the banned Morning Star Flag flag in Timika on December 1
Image caption Papuans gather every years to raise the flag, but this year has been particularly violent

Several people have been injured after Indonesian forces fired shots at Papuans gathered to mark 50 years since declaring independence, activists say.

Hundreds of Papuans reportedly danced and sang in a field in Timika, a town near a huge gold mine that has been a flashpoint in the past.

Activists say police fired warning shots after the Morning Star flag, a banned independence symbol, was raised.

But police say they dispersed the crowds using peaceful methods.

They claim reports of the incident have been exaggerated: "There were three places where the flag was raised, but so far there has been no arrests," Papua police spokesman Wachyono told BBC Indonesia.

But activists said that several people were injured when the police opened fire.

"Police and military attacked the mass and shot four people after the raising of Morning Star flag," local activist Markus Haluk told the Jakarta Globe newspaper.

Elsewhere in Papua Province there were sporadic outbreaks of violence, and at least one police officer was wounded in an attack.

Accusations of abuse

Papua declared independence 50 years ago when the former colonial rulers the Dutch pulled out.

But it was put under UN protection a year later amid a sovereignty dispute with Indonesia, which claimed the resource-rich area.

And Indonesia eventually took over in 1969 after a controversial referendum.

Since then, some Papuans have fought a violent campaign for independence from Jakarta.

Rights groups have accused the Indonesian security forces of widespread human rights abuses, and the government of continuing repression.

Several people have received long jail terms simply for raising the Morning Star flag.

The operation of the Grasberg gold and copper mine by US firm Freeport near Timika has proved particularly controversial.

Workers' groups accuse the firm of exploiting the workforce and giving nothing back to the community - allegations denied by Freeport.

Miners have been striking at the facility for months, and sporadic violence has broken out.

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