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Tribesmen torch homes in Indonesia's Papua

Australian Associated Press - November 4, 2007

Riot police and soldiers fired warning shots on Sunday after tribesmen in Indonesia's Papua province set several homes on fire in unrest triggered by the death of a former local police chief.

At least 10 homes belonging to locals in Papua's Timika district were torched, forcing occupants aided by security officers to carry out their possessions and flee, the state-run Antara news agency reported.

Timika is located in Indonesia's eastern province of Papua, about 3,150km north-east of Jakarta.

In an attempt to stop the violence, riot police and troops firing warning shots to disperse the mob.

The combined security forces were stationed at strategic locations and combed vital areas in order to prevent the rioting from escalating further.

Two armoured vehicles were stationed in Timika's nearby business district, the state-run media reported, while dozens of residents sought refugee at local police stations.

Brigadier General Andilolo, deputy police chief in Papua, told the radio station that peaceful means were being attempted to defuse the tension, including negotiations with the tribes and other community leaders in an attempt to restore calm.

Triggered by the death of a respected elder from a local tribe, identified as Yance Ikomou, hundreds of angered tribesmen blocked the main road on Saturday in Timika. Tribesmen also gathered in a field demanding an explanation of their leader's death.

Papua Police Chief Max Donald was quoted as saying that Ikomou suddenly collapsed and was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he later died.

Hours earlier, anger over Ikomou's death prompted tribesmen to attack the police station where he had been. Police reportedly shot back, killing at least one rioting tribesman.