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14 April 2024

Papua unrest death toll hits 26

Photo: AFP


Atleast 26 people have been killed in fresh unrest in Indonesia's restive Papua region, authorities said Tuesday, as thousands fled to shelters following a day of violence that saw victims burned alive in buildings set ablaze by protesters.

Papua, on the western half of New Guinea island, has been gripped by weeks of violent protests fuelled by anger over racism, as well as fresh calls for self-rule in the impoverished territory.

Some 22 people died in Wamena city where hundreds had demonstrated and burned down a government office and other buildings on Monday, with some victims perishing in deliberately set fires, authorities said, as they upped the death toll from a previous 20 with more than 70 injured.

Some 700 people had been rounded up for questioning over the deadly riots, the military said.

"Some were burned, some were hacked to death... some were trapped in fires," local military commander Chandra Dianto told AFP.

"(We're) going to scour the debris to look for more possible victims in shops and stalls that were set on fire," he added.

Most victims in Wamena were non-Papuans, authorities said, threatening an escalation in violence against migrants from other parts of the Southeast Asian archipelago.

Most of the recent clashes have been between separatist protesters and Indonesian security forces.

A soldier and three civilians also died in provincial capital Jayapura, where security forces and stone-throwing protesters clashed Monday.

The soldier was stabbed to death, while three students died from rubber bullet wounds, authorities said, without elaborating.