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At least 26 dead after violent clashes in Indonesia

By Darryl Coote
1/2
At least 26 dead after violent clashes in Indonesia
The Indonesian government tighten security in Papua and West Papua province amid continuing unrest that was triggered by accusations that security forces insulted Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java. Photo by Jack Wally/EPA-EFE

Sept. 24 (UPI) -- The death toll rose in Indonesia to 26 Tuesday as more bodies were found following riots in the province of West Papua, where students took to the streets a day earlier to protest racial and ethnic discrimination.

The violence began Monday in the provincial capital of Jayapura and the town of Wamena as protesters opposed discrimination against native Papuans, who are ethnic minorities in Javanese-majority Indonesian cities.

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In Jayapura, one soldier and three students were killed and 27 others were injured in violence that erupted after police rounded up Papuan students, who had recently returned to the province from throughout the country, protesting outside the University of Cenderawasih.

National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo said 733 students were arrested and being detained at the Papua police headquarters.

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"They are being detained to be interrogated," he said. "If they haven't committed any crimes, they will be released."

In Wamena, a police spokesman increased the death toll Tuesday to 22 after four more bodies were discovered and another person died at a hospital following the riots Monday. The violence began when protesters, angered by rumors that a teacher made discriminatory comments toward Papuan high school students, set fire to buildings.

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Some 72 others were also injured, the official said.

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At least 80 vehicles, 30 motorcycles, 150 stores and five government buildings -- including the district head office, the state utility company office and the state attorney's office -- were damaged in the riots, police said.

Some 2,000 native Papuan university students have recently returned to the province amid growing unrest and discrimination that have intensified since mid-August when riots erupted following Javanese hurling slurs at Papuan students.

The ensuing protest resulted in the arrests of 43 students, for desecrating the nation's flag. They were later released without charges.

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