Monday, March 12, 2007

Tribal fighting kills nine in isolated Papuan town

Nine people were killed and more than 150 hurt in Indonesia's Papua province after a murder accusation triggered clashes between tribesmen armed with spears and arrows. A woman accused of poisoning her husband to death encouraged members of her clan to attack members of a rival group which her accuser -- and her dead husband -- belonged to, according to police spokesman Kartono Wangsadisastra. Nine people were killed in the ensuing clashes between the Kobagau and Sani tribes and 154 others were injured, including a policeman hit by an arrow, the spokesman told AFP. "We have managed to curb the violence, but as long as no customary peace-making ceremony has been held, it may well erupt again," he said. According to tradition, a death should be avenged by another death or the killer's tribe must pay a hefty fine of prized pigs and hold a feast to seal peace.

Provincial deputy police chief ,Brig. Gen. Max D Aer, told Nethy Dharma Somba of The Jakarta Post that the violence, sparked by the death of a local, thirty-year-old teacher named Hendrikus Sani, had been focused in Yoparu village, Sugapa district in Paniai regency, which is far from the nearest police station and can only be reached by foot. The man's family believed Hendrikus was poisoned with a substance called Minaba.

Police in Sugapa, with the help of traditional and religious leaders, were able to get the two clans to agree to end the hostilities on 8 February Aer said. However, that agreement lasted only until 26 February when members of the two clans fought each other with bows and arrows and knives. The violence continued despite the efforts of authorities. On 3 March an officer with the Sugapa Police, Second Brig. Yafet Turembi, was shot by an arrow. The officer survived the injury and was transported to Nabire Hospital in Nabire for treatment.

Four of the nine dead were from the Sani clan. They have been identified as Hendrikus Sani, 30; Yan Sani, 30; Rafael Sani, 35; and Niko Sani, 50. Another 20 members of the clan were seriously wounded in the fighting, and another 30 suffered minor injuries. Five members of the Kobogau clan have died in the violence. They are Alfons Kobogau, 36; Herman Kobogau, 11; Enos Jegeseni, 28; Boka Kobogau, 38; and Daniel Kobogau, 40. Twelve clan members suffered serious injuries and 92 minor injuries.

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