A car passes the burning offices of the Jayawijaya district head in Wamena, Papua, after it was set alight by rioters on Monday. (Antara Photo/Marius Wonyewun)

Death Toll Rises to 20 in Papua Unrest; Hundreds Arrested

BY :TELLY NATHALIA

SEPTEMBER 23, 2019

Jakarta. Unrest that broke out in Jayapura and Wamena in Papua Province on Monday has claimed the lives of at least 20 people, while dozens more were injured, officials said.

National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo said four people – a soldier and three members of the Papuan Students Alliance (AMP) – have died in the incident in Jayapura. Seven policemen and 20 civilians were injured.

Dedi told journalist in Jakarta on Monday that Papuan students who returned from their places of study elsewhere in Indonesia held a rally outside Cendrawasih University in the morning, requesting the establishment of a coordinating office for them on the campus, which was denied.

The university called police to disperse the crowd of about 200 students after the discussions ended. The students then agreed to be transported to an area near the Expo Waena Cultural Park.

"We are investigating who provoked the students, because they suddenly brutally attacked security force members," Dedi said about what transpired after police and military personnel delivered the students to their destination.

He said the security forces fired warning shots to calm the situation after the soldier was killed and seven policemen were wounded. Police officers were also pelted with rocks, while some were attacked with sharp objects.

"It is suspected [that the three students] died after being struck by rubber bullets, but autopsies will be performed," the police spokesman said.

Police have arrested 318 students at the location and transferred them to the Papua Police headquarters for questioning, he added.

Cendrawasih Military Command spokesman Lt. Col. Eko Daryanto separately told the Jakarta Globe that 16 civilians had died in unrest in Wamena in Jayawijaya district on Monday. Some of them died after being trapped in burning buildings, which were set alight by rioters. About 65 people were wounded in the violence.

The riot in Wamena started after a brawl between students from two different high school spun out of control and turned into anarchy, when a crowd started to set fire to government buildings, public facilities and private houses. The city's airport was also closed due to the unrest.

Benny Wenda

The police spokesman said Benny Wenda, leader of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), who now lives in Britain, was likely behind Monday's violence in the two Papuan cities.

"From the start, these events cannot be separated from Benny Wenda, the ULMWP and its allies in the KNPB [West Papua National Committee]. The KNPB has infiltrated the AMP. The AMP was used to provoke members of the public and students during the incident at Cendrawasih University," Dedi said.

The Indonesian government previously also blamed Benny Wenda and the ULMWP and KNPB for the unrest in Papua and West Papua in August.

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