Marni Cordell, Ben Doherty and Kate Lamb – A West Papuan independence group has accused the Indonesian police of "abducting" a leading West Papuan activist in a dramatic arrest on Monday.
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua, whose exiled leader is Benny Wenda, said in a statement that a joint strike force of Indonesian police and military surrounded the home of the high-profile activist Buchtar Tabuni early on Monday morning.
The group claims several shots were fired and four armed troops surrounded Tabuni before he was taken into custody, with no prior notice or summons.
A national police spokesperson, Dedi Prasetyo, confirmed Tabuni's arrest for suspected treason, telling the Guardian the Papuan regional police had handled the arrest in the context of "ensuring security and order in Jayapura and Papua in general".
Tabuni, who is a key member of the West Papuan leadership along with Wenda, is seen as a mastermind of protests that have spread across West Papua and other provinces in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, allegations of brutal violence continue to emerge from the strife-torn region in the wake of the protests.
Footage allegedly from a rally in Fakfak on 21 August appears to show Indonesian special forces soldiers, in uniform but walking among militia members, firing live rounds across a body of water at independence demonstrators on the other side.
And the death toll from a separate clash between West Papuan independence demonstrators and Indonesian military has risen to eight, a priest who was a witness to the shooting has told the Guardian.
Father Santon Tekege from the diocese of Timika Papua said the protesters had gathered at the regency office in Deiyai, in Papua province, on 28 August.
Video footage obtained by the Guardian shows soldiers opening fire at demonstrators, walking towards protesters, some of whom are standing with their hands up.
Initially, the death toll was reported as six, but this had since risen to eight, with 39 people injured, Tekege said. He said security forces fired teargas canisters and "thousands of bullets" towards the protesters.
Tekege said UN intervention was needed to bring peace to West Papua and asked "international parties to support West Papua independence".
The Deiyai deputy regent has confirmed the death count at eight, the Jakarta Post reported. But police have disputed the toll, saying only one protester was killed, along with one soldier, and that security forces opened fire only after being attacked.
On Thursday morning Indonesian police confirmed they had also arrested Steven Itlay, a leader of civil society group the National Committee for West Papua, for his role in the protests.
Itlay was arrested at Cenderawasih University in Jayapura on Wednesday afternoon with two others, who the Guardian understands are members of the same group.
Indonesian police have named dozens of people, mostly protesters, as suspects after more than three weeks of protests across Papua, West Papua and other Indonesian provinces. Many of them are being interrogated without lawyers, Emanuel Gobay, the director of the Papua Legal Aid Institute, told the Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
The protests were sparked by the racist abuse and arrest of Papuan students in Surabaya, on the island of Java, but have morphed into a broader political demand for a referendum on independence. A long-running independence movement has existed since Indonesia forcibly took control of the provinces in the 1960s.
The exiled leader Benny Wenda told the Guardian the deteriorating situation in West Papua required United Nations intervention.
"Indonesia is sending 6,000 troops on military exercises to West Papua. There is no war going on, this is peaceful demonstrators against a huge military. My people are in danger. We need to act now before it is too late."
In a show of force, and perhaps an indication of a willingness to escalate military action if protests continue, the Indonesian military conducted exercises at Sentani and Wamena airfields in Papua. Footage from Jayapura showed dozens of paratroopers parachuting from the back of an airforce plane, part of a Quick Reaction Strike Force exercise.
Indonesia's defence force chief, Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, said the exercises were held annually at different locations across Indonesia, and this year was organised for Papua. "The jump drills ran smoothly and safely," he said.
Indonesia's ministry of public works and public housing has dedicated IDR100bn (US$7m) for rebuilding state offices destroyed by protesters during protests in Jayapura in Papua on 29 August.