Police shot dead an armed pro-independence activist in Indonesia’s restive Papua province on Thursday, angering residents who set homes and cars ablaze, locals and officials said.
National police spokesman Muhammad Taufik said the victim, identified only by the initials M.T., was from the pro-independence West Papua National Committee (KNPB) and was shot dead in the town of Waena during a police raid.
“He was armed. Police asked him to surrender but he didn’t. Police shot at him, hitting his hip and leg. He died on the way to hospital,” he told reporters.
News of the death sparked riots in Waena, officials and residents said.
“People were angry after they heard that their leader or friend was arrested and burnt several motorcycles, cars and three houses,” security minister Djoko Suyanto said.
He added that four people had been arrested in the past two weeks over a spate of violence in the region, including the fatal shooting of a German tourist late last month.
They included KNPB head Bukhtar Tabuni, who was released from prison last year after serving three years for organising a 2008 rally, according to police.
Police said the group was suspected of organising protests in recent months that have left shops and public facilities in several Papuan cities badly vandalised, but it has denied responsibility.
Pro-independence rallies and displaying separatist symbols are considered treason in Indonesia, and protests in Papua, a former Dutch colony on the western half of New Guinea island, have ended in bloody clashes with police.
Jakarta annexed Papua in 1969 in a self-determination referendum widely regarded as a sham and continues to keep a tight grip on the region through its military and police to quell a decades-long insurgency by poorly armed rebels.