Kate Lamb in Jakarta, Marni Cordell and Ben Doherty – Witnesses to Monday's deadly riots in West Papua claim Indonesian police gunned down Papuan students in the street during the unrest, and say Wamena has since become a militarised ghost town.
Witness testimony from Wamena, the largest town in Papua's remote Baliem Valley, run in stark contrast to the Indonesian authorities' official account.
Indonesian police have said 31 people died in the racism-fuelled riot, but claim the majority of victims were non-Papuan migrants who died from stab and arrow wounds, and from being trapped inside burning buildings.
But since Monday's riot, the Guardian has spoken to several witnesses who suggest not only that the death toll may be significantly higher than the official toll, but also that the Indonesian police may have been involved.
Lukas(*), a 19-year-old Papuan college student who joined the demonstration on Monday, said that as the chaos unfolded on the street, the police opened fire on students, who fought back.
"Students were coming to the street from all different directions as shophouses, cars and motorbikes were all on fire," Lukas said. "That's when the police and military came. Even though they were chasing us, the students kept coming and fighting with police."
"There was a shootout and we fought back with rocks and arrows. The police shot at the Papuans. There were about 16 to 20 people who died directly on the street that I saw."
Papua police spokesperson Ahmad Mustofa Kamal told the Guardian this account was not true. Indonesia's chief of police said earlier in the week that just four indigenous Papuans had been killed in the Wamena unrest.
Yet one witness account from inside the Wamena general hospital suggests there were more, and that many of the dead were children.
The witness, Thomas*, said he saw several victims being brought to the hospital on Monday, including two migrant women hit by rocks, and a young Papuan student who had been shot in the back. The bullet had ripped through the side of his stomach.
"He was yelling 'I feel like I'm dying'," Thomas told the Guardian.
"As more bodies were brought into the hospital, I could see many non-Papuans injured from being hit by rocks and other sharp weapons," he said. "But many Papuans were injured from gunshots."
Thomas says the following day he saw six Papuan bodies laid out in the hospital's morgue, who all appeared to be of "high school age".
With internet services blocked and phone lines initially down and subsequently disrupted, it has been difficult to obtain a full picture of the horror that unfolded in Wamena on Monday, which Amnesty International has described as "one of the bloodiest days in Papua in 20 years".
Sources on the ground say police and military are guarding the Wamena hospital, effectively blocking access to anyone who tries to independently verify the number of fatalities. Some Papuans have also retrieved victims and bodies directly from the street. Because of this, the real death toll is unknown, but could be as high as 41.
The Guardian has been provided with a list of 65 names of Papuans said to be at Wamena hospital suffering gunshot wounds and "injuries from sharp weapons".
"The military and police presence at the entrance of the hospital makes it difficult for families to access their relatives," a source in Wamena, who did not want to be identified, said.
"Families have tried to force their way in to take those injured back home, so they can treat them at home, but this has not been allowed."
As word slowly filters out from Wamena, witnesses have also contested the official version of how the riot started. Students have claimed the protest was sparked by a racist comment by a teacher at the local high school.
Indonesian police claim this is "fake news" and that pro-independence figures dressed up in school uniforms to provoke trouble. But interviews with a teacher from the high school where the incident allegedly occurred, and with students involved, suggest students joined of their own volition.
It was on Saturday 22 September that a migrant teacher allegedly called a Papuan high school student a "monkey" – the same racist insult that last month sparked mass riots across Indonesia after a similar incident occurred in the Javanese city of Surabaya.
By Sunday, the claims had been widely shared by students on their phones as they planned Monday's demonstration, ultimately motivating some 5,000 students to the streets.
One teacher from the school, Michael Alua, said the teachers had attempted to make peace, but neither side would concede, with the teacher denying that word was ever said, and the students insisting it was.
"The settlers [migrants] are guarding their houses with machetes and the Papuans are traumatised. They don't know what's going to happen."
On Monday morning the students were so incensed they demanded the teacher be reported to the police. "They call us monkeys, but we are not monkeys," said Lukas, when asked why he got involved.
In the days since the deadly violence, there has been a strong army presence on the streets of Wamena, and shops, schools and gas stations have been closed. Meanwhile, thousands of migrants have fled, some boarding military flights to Jayapura, while indigenous Papuans have returned to villages on the outskirts of town.
After the riot, thousands sought refuge in churches and in police and military buildings, as parts of the town were torched and covered in towering plumes of smoke. The regent's office was burned to the ground. Houses, shops, cars and the market were also set on fire.
At least four sources told the Guardian that "migrants" (non-indigenous Papuans), who dominate economic life in Wamena, are now walking the streets carrying machetes and iron sticks.
One source told the Guardian that "people in Wamena are afraid to go out". The source said the shutdown of the internet and other modes of communication had exacerbated people's fears of further violence and fuelled "ugly rumours" circulating the city.
"The settlers [migrants] are guarding their houses with machetes in their hands, and the Papuans are traumatised, and they don't know what's going to happen."
"Thousands of migrants are fleeing the city, they want to be evacuated and they are being facilitated by the government, but Papuans are also terrified. They are thinking, 'if the government is so quick to help settlers leave, what is being planned after that?' There is currently that uncertainty."
A leaked police memo, sent from the Papua police chief to his deputy and other officials, urges police and military to prepare weapons and ammunition "where they can be easily accessed" and warns non-Papuans to be vigilant and "stay temporarily in a safe place".
The memo, the authenticity of which was confirmed to the Guardian by the police, instructed officers to be aware of student groups, particularly "exodus students", in reference to those returning to Papua from other parts of Indonesia.
In recent weeks more than 1,000 Papuan students have returned home from other areas in Indonesia, fuelled by anger over racism that Papuans say they have long endured.
Monday's riot has for the second time painfully revealed how inflammable structural racism has become in West Papua, fuelling not just protests but a movement for independence from Indonesia.
"Papuan students are tired of racism and want to stand up for themselves," Linus Hiluka, a former political prisoner who lives in Wamena, told the Guardian. "They want their own story."
(*) Name has been changed to protect their identity