Violence over the last three days have left three people dead and dozens injured, prompting the authorities to send in paramilitary reinforcements from Jayapura and Makassar.

Provincial police chief, Budi Utomo, said the police would form a buffer force between the two warring groups and try to mediate a settlement.

"They are to maintain a barricade between the two sides so that they do not attack each other again," the poice chief said.

Thousands of Amungme hill tribesmen, who oppose the establishment of a new province of Central Irian Jaya, have been fighting a pitched battle with supporters of the plan.

Violence over the last three days have left three people dead and dozens injured, prompting the authorities to send in paramilitary reinforcements

The tribesmen have used traditional weapons like bows, arrows and spears to attack their opponents, insisting they will not stop the fight untill the number of the dead on each side is the same.

Two of the three killed were opponents of the new province.

The tribesmen fear that a new province would trigger an influx of outsiders, marginalising them like Australia's Aborigines.

But authorities say the division of the existing province into three is to improve administration in the mountainous territory with a population of about three million.

Opponents of the division, however, say the real aim is to lessen support for a long-running separatist movement for an independent Papua.

But the provincial police chief argues the dispute has turned violent since "people who do not understand politics have been involved in the conflict."