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One killed as villagers torch homes in tribal fighting in Papua

Associated Press - November 4, 2007

Jakarta – One person was killed in Indonesia's restive Papua province in tribal fighting as villagers burned houses and attacked a police station close to a US-owned gold mine, a police officer said Sunday.

The violence was sparked when local tribesman sought revenge after the death of an elder following a fight with police early Saturday, Papua deputy police chief Brig. Gen. Andilolo told el-Shinta radio station.

Andilolo said relatives of the dead tribal elder were demanding that a police officer – who is from a rival tribe – be brought to a field and executed.

He gave no details on the fight that led to the elder's death, but media reports said he died on the way to a hospital after collapsing. "It is an eye for an eye thing," Andilolo said.

Rioting broke out in Timika, the closest town to a giant gold and copper mine operated by Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold Mine Inc. A company spokesman said production was unaffected.

On Sunday, at least 10 houses were burnt down in Timika in clashes related to the incident, he said. There were no reports of casualties on Sunday.

On Saturday, tribesmen stormed a police station in an attack that left one person dead, Andilolo said.

The tribes in the area – 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) northeast of Jakarta - have a history of bad relations. Feuds can last for several weeks and normally only end when the number of victims from either side is equal.

The region is also home a small separatist army that is seeking independence for the region, which is ethnically and religiously distinct from the rest of Indonesia.