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Army says 8 suspects in Irian shooting

Reuters - August 5, 1998

Jakarta – Eight soldiers have been identified as suspects by an army investigation into the fatal shooting of a student at a pro-independence rally in Indonesias province of Irian Jaya, the official Antara news agency said on Wednesday.

"The eight troops used rifles with bullets that are identical to those found in the victims body," Colonel Hendra Giri, head of the military fact-finding team, was quoted as saying. "This could change depending upon the results of the ongoing investigation of the eight officers. It is possible that only four of them have fired the shots that killed Suripatty."

Law student Steven Suripatty, 22, was shot in the head at the rally at Cenderawasih University, near the provincial capital of Jayapura, on July 3. He died in hospital a few weeks later. Troops had fired into a crowd of separatist protesters that had attacked a plainclothes police officer. The police officer died of his wounds the following day. A high school student was also shot in the knee in the melee.

Several separatist demonstrations were reported in Irian Jaya last month. Non-governmental organisations have said at least seven people were killed in army crackdowns in addition to those who died after the Cenderawasih rally. The army says there were no further deaths.

A low-level separatist insurgency has been under way in Irian Jaya since 1969, when the vast mineral-rich province was incorporated into Indonesia. Separatist protests have mounted in the province since the resignation of former president Suharto on May 21 amid a crippling economic crisis and widespread unrest.