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Rioters torch government building in Indonesia's Papua


AFP Jakarta
Indonesia's Papua was plunged into chaos again Thursday as angry protesters torched a government building and damaged businesses, according to an AFP reporter, after nearly two weeks of riots across the island.
Hundreds of demonstrators marched near Papua's biggest city Jayapura where they set fire to a regional assembly building and hurled rocks at shops and hotels, the reporter said.
Many called for independence from Indonesian rule and an end to racism against the minority group.
The protest comes a day after violence flared in remote Deiyai, where a clash between protesters and Indonesian security forces left at least one soldier and two demonstrators dead, according to officials.
The confrontation sparked reports that Indonesia's military -- long accused of committing rights abuses against Papuans during a decades-old separatist insurgency -- had gunned down six protesters.
Authorities denied that claim and said they were attacked by hundreds of Papuans armed with machetes and arrows.
Some 300 extra personnel had been sent to Deiyai to restore order, officials said Thursday.
Jakarta already deployed more than 1,200 police and military members to Papua last week.
"Right now the situation in Deiyai is calm and under control," Papuan police said in a statement Thursday.
"Community leaders are holding a meeting to urge people not to hold violent demonstrations again today." The accounts of what happened in Deiyai could not be independently verified.
Conflicting reports are common in Papua -- a resource-rich but impoverished island that shares a border with Papua New Guinea.
The region has also been subject to a government-ordered Internet blackout since last week, making information sharing difficult.
Riots and demonstrations have broken out in Papua since mid-August with buildings torched and street battles between police and protesters.
The unrest appears to have been triggered by the arrest this month of dozens of Papuan students in Java, who were also pelted with racist abuse.
Police in riot gear stormed a dormitory in the city of Surabaya to force out students accused of destroying an Indonesian flag, as a group of protesters shouted racial slurs at them, calling them "monkeys" and "dogs".
Papuans are ethnic Melanesians and have few cultural ties with the rest of Indonesia.
One person suspected of organising the protest against the Papuan students in Surabaya had been named a criminal suspect, authorities said Thursday.
A half dozen police officers have also been temporarily suspended pending an investigation over the incident.
Jakarta took control of Papua, a former Dutch colony, in the 1960s after an independence referendum widely viewed as a sham.
Many Papuans say they have not gotten a fair share of vast mineral wealth in the region, which is home to the world's biggest gold mine.

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First Published: Aug 29 2019 | 3:55 PM IST

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