At least 20 people were killed and dozens more wounded in new riots that erupted Monday (September 23rd) in Papua, province of Indonesia agitated by violence since mid-August, announced the army.
"Most have died in a fire," said military spokesman Eko Daryanto. "The balance sheet could increase because many people are trapped in shops on fire."
After racist incidents against the Melanesian population, demonstrations and sometimes deadly riots have followed in Papua since 19 August and have also revived calls for a referendum for independence.
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On Monday, 16 people were killed in the town of Wamena, where several hundred people took part in a demonstration in which public buildings and other buildings were set on fire, the authorities said.
Among the victims, 13 were not Papuans, said the military spokesman. A soldier and three civilians were also killed in Jayapura, capital of the province, where clashes broke out between security forces and protesters throwing stones. The soldier was killed by stone throwing, he added.
Some 300 people have been arrested, said Daryanto, also reporting 65 injuries.
Students gathered Monday morning in front of a Jayapura University for a demonstration against racism. But clashes took place with police who fired warning summons to move them to another site, according to an AFP journalist.
In Wamena, the headquarters of the department was destroyed by fire and other buildings and shops, noted another journalist from AFP.
Hundreds of high school students and students gathered to protest racist statements attributed to a teacher on social media.
The police denied the existence of these racist remarks, speaking of an "infox".
Since 19 August, many localities in Papua have seen demonstrations, some degenerating into riots with burning buildings and clashes with police.
Sporadic independence rebellion
The unrest began in response to racist incidents against Papuan students in Surabaya, the second-largest city in Indonesia, on the island of Java. They then relaunched the demands for a referendum on independence.
The record of violence until Monday was the subject of contradictory information. According to the government, five civilians and one soldier were killed, but local media and separatist groups report more casualties.
Papua is experiencing a sporadic separatist rebellion against the Indonesian government which took control of this resource-rich region in the 1960s after Dutch colonization.
The eastern part of the island is occupied by Papua New Guinea, an independent state since 1975.