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Sunday, 11 November, 2001, 16:36 GMT
Separatist leader killed in Indonesia
A leader of Irian Jaya's pro-independence movement has been kidnapped and killed, police in the Indonesian province reported on Sunday.

Relatives of Theys Eluay, one of Irian Jaya's most prominent advocates of independence, said his car was ambushed on a lonely stretch of road between the province's capital, Jayapura, and his home town of Sentani.

A senior member of the independence movement who saw the body said that Mr Eluay had been strangled.

Theys Eluay
Theys Eluay was on trail for treason
The BBC's Jakarta correspondent Richard Galpin says the death is likely to be seen by supporters of the province's independence movement as an officially sanctioned assassination.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr Eluay's widow Yaneke accused Indonesia's security forces of being behind her husband's death.

News of the killing triggered street protests in the province. Pro-independence supporters set fire to a hotel, a market and a bank near Jayapura's airport. But there were no reports of any injuries, and police had managed to disperse the crowds by dusk.

Kidnapped

Mr Eluay was returning home from a dinner on Saturday evening with senior military officials, when a group of unidentified men reportedly stopped his car.

According to police, the assailants tried to make his death look like an accident by pushing the car off a remote stretch of road. Mr Eluay's body was found in a ravine at about 0545 GMT on Sunday.


Eluay had been on trial charged with plotting to undermine the Indonesian Government

"[Eluay's] body was found dead in his car on a road ...near the border between Irian Jaya and Papua New Guinea," said a report by the official Antara news agency.

Mr Eluay's driver is said to have escaped, and subsequently informed the family about his abduction. He said the men responsible were not from Irian Jaya.

Independence leader

Eluay was chairman of the pro-independence Papua Presidium Council - an umbrella group of Irian leaders which declared the province's split from Indonesia last year.

He had been on trial charged with plotting to undermine the Indonesian Government.

Last month, Indonesia's parliament passed a bill aimed at giving Irian Jaya more autonomy and a greater share of tax revenues.

The government is hoping the new law will help end nearly 40 years of separatist fighting in the province, which lies on the western half of New Guinea island.

The new law will also allow the province to fly its own independence flag and use its own anthem.

But the rebel Free Papua Movement has rejected the new bill, saying people want a fully independent state of West Papua.

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The BBC's Richard Galpin reports from Jakarta
"Mr Eluay was one of Irian Jaya's most prominent independence leaders"
See also:

23 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jaya to get more autonomy
03 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jaya rebels still threaten town
16 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Megawati sorry for rights abuses
04 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jaya declared independent
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