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At least 20 killed and 70 injured in day of violence in West Papua

The Guardian - September 24, 2019

Marni Cordell and Kate Lamb – Graphic photos of the bloodied victims of what appear to be gunshot wounds have emerged after another day of violence in West Papua, which has seen at least 26 people killed and 70 injured.

Four people were killed, including a military officer, and several others injured when Indonesian security forces opened fire on students following a protest about racism at a university in Jayapura on Monday.

In a separate incident in the city of Wamena, at least 22 civilians were killed and 65 injured during a riot that activists say was sparked by a teacher calling a high school student a "monkey".

Hundreds of students had gathered at Cenderawasih University early on Monday morning but were ordered by the authorities to disperse. Two witnesses said the students were on their way home and had just disembarked from several buses and trucks, when the clash erupted in Waena sub-district.

"Suddenly the police started to run fast towards the mass of students and I could see they were shooting at them. Shots were fired into the air and towards the students and the police also fired tear gas," said one eyewitness, Martin, who asked to use his first name only for security reasons.

"I don't know why the police started to fire," he said. "The students were noisy, yelling 'oop oop', but that is normal. I am not sure what happened, maybe the security forces panicked."

In one video, believed to be taken as the incident occurred, dozens of gunshots can be heard.

"The police fired at the students as they ran and allowed non-Papuans who held sharp weapons to intimidate indigenous Papuans," said a second witness, Markus, who also asked to use his first name only. Students were rounded up by authorities and detained in police trucks, according to witnesses.

Papua military spokesman Eko Daryanto said a mob of angry students attacked a soldier and several police officers with machetes and rocks, forcing security forces to respond with gunfire, killing three civilians. The soldier died on the way to a hospital. At least five police officers were in critical condition.

There were also casualties in the city of Wamena, after a protest reportedly sparked by a racist comment about a West Papuan high school student led to a riot in which Indonesian government buildings were burnt down. Activists claim the protest began and as an angry but peaceful march before police and military opened fire.

The Guardian has seen photos that activists say are of victims of the violence in Wamena with what appear to be gunshot wounds. Videos from the scene show buildings up in flames, with towering clouds of smoke.

More than 1,000 university students have returned to West Papua in recent weeks amid ongoing unrest sparked by an incident in Surabaya when police and military-aligned militia allegedly taunted West Papuan students with racist slurs.

The surge in anger over racism, which West Papuans say they have long endured, has culminated in renewed and widespread calls for independence from Indonesia.

– With Associated Press

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/24/at-least-20-killed-and-70-injured-in-day-of-violence-in-west-papua