Papua riots sweep through eastern Indonesia

Papua riots sweep through eastern Indonesia

Indonesia has deployed additional police squads and armed troops to its far east West Papua province, following protests that led to riots recently, police said on Wednesday.

In the first of the three cities, capital of West Papua, the crowd took to the streets attacking and setting fire to some public buildings, including the Provincial Legislative Council and the former Papua Governor's Office.

Indonesian police were hunting on Tuesday for more than 250 inmates who fled a jail in Papua that had been set ablaze a day earlier, during a wave of civil unrest in cities across the country's easternmost area.

About 1,000 people protested in the streets of Timika city, throwing rocks at the local parliament building as they tried to tear down its fence.

But security personnel were not equipped with live bullets, and the situation was "generally under control", national police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal said Wednesday.

The mass prison break happened on Monday in Sorong, as thousands of Papuans marched in several cities across the territory.

Police fired tear gas into the dormitory before arresting 43 students, according to an activist, who said the students had been called "monkeys" during the operation. The protesters demanded that the government and other Indonesian citizens outside the region put an end to racial abuse against Papuans.

The demonstration that led to a chaos came after a raid on the dormitory of Papuan students by the security forces and community organizations in Surabaya, East Java, on August 16-17.

The rights group Setara Institute said police and military reinforcements would exacerbate violence and it urged President Joko Widodo to send an envoy to open dialogue with residents there.

Monday's riots marked the latest flashpoint in a decades-old rebel insurgency against Indonesian rule and allegations that its security forces committed widespread rights abuses against Papua's ethnic Melanesian population.

Papua and West Papua provinces, the resource-rich western part of the island of New Guinea, were a Dutch colony that was incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticised UN-backed referendum in 1969.

It is also home to the world's largest gold mine, but many Papuans say they've not shared in the region's vast mineral wealth.

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