- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 24, 2004

A federal grand jury has indicted a member of an Indonesian separatist group in the violent 2002 ambush of a group of American school teachers, two of whom were fatally shot.

Anthonius Wamang, 32, identified as an operational commander of the military arm of the Free Papua Movement, was charged with two counts of murder, eight counts of attempted murder and other crimes in the 19-count indictment, handed up in U.S. District Court for the District of Colombia and unsealed yesterday.

Mr. Wamang, a fugitive, could face the death penalty if captured and convicted. He is believed to be in Indonesia.

According to Kenneth L. Wainstein, interim U.S. attorney for the District, a group of nine U.S. school teachers, along with a 6-year-old child, were ambushed on Aug. 31, 2002, while returning from a mountaintop picnic near the town of Tembagapura, in Indonesia’s eastern province of Papua.

Mr. Wainstein said the teachers were shot from two sport utility vehicles as they rode in a van along a highway in a remote area.

Rickey Lynn Spier, 44, of Littleton, Colo., and Leon Edwin “Ted” Burgon, 71, of Sun River, Ore., were killed in the attack. Seven of the eight survivors were seriously wounded, but recovered. Also killed in the attack was Indonesian instructor Bambang Riwanto.

The teachers were identified as contract employees of the Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Mine Inc., which operates the largest gold and copper mine in the world in the Papua province of Indonesia.

The Free Papua Movement seeks a state independent of Indonesia.

FBI Assistant Director Michael A. Mason, who heads of the bureau’s Washington, D.C., field office, said the Indonesian government permitted agents to interview members of the Indonesian military as part of the investigation. There were initial reports that Indonesian soldiers were involved in the attack, although the accusation remains unproven.

“At this point the evidence collected does not indicate participation by the Indonesian military in these attacks,” Mr. Wainstein said. “Until we’ve determined every single person who is responsible for this offense, we will not rule out anybody.”

The FBI and the Indonesian National Police are continuing to investigate the case. Indonesian officials have made no arrests in the case, and there have been questions on how effective their investigation has been.

Last year, Congress agreed to cut some military training aid for Indonesia in response to accusations that officials in Jakarta were dragging their feet in the investigation into the attack.

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