Communal violence, fire kills 18 in Indonesia’s West Papua province – BenarNews – World Today News

At least 18 people died in communal violence in Indonesia’s West Papua province on Tuesday, including 17 who were burned alive at a nightclub set ablaze during inter-ethnic fighting on the neighboring Maluku Islands, police said.

The incident began before dawn on Tuesday when members of the Pelauw tribe attacked and killed a 20-year-old ethnic Kei man in Sorong, a coastal town of a quarter of a million people on the north-western tip of West Papua, local officials said.

“Friends of the victim immediately pursued the perpetrators to seek revenge,” city police chief Ary Nyoto Setiawan said, adding that the pursuit ended near a karaoke club.

“There were clashes. The mob burned down the karaoke place and two vehicles,” Ary said, confirming that the two groups were not ethnic Papuans.

Security forces evacuated the burning building, believing they emptied it, Ary said, but firefighters later found 17 burned bodies on the second floor. The victims – likely nightclub patrons and workers – appeared to have been hiding there, fearing the violence outside, he added.

The bodies were taken to a nearby hospital for identification, Ary said.

It is estimated that around half of the current population of the provinces of Papua and West Papua are people who migrated there from other islands. The Maluku chain lies just west of West Papua, and the provincial capital of Ambon is just over an hour’s ferry ride from Sorong.

Tensions between the groups flared on Saturday, Ary said.

“We’ve already got the tribal chiefs together to solve the problem so it doesn’t fester. Patrols were put on alert… But obviously the conflict was still ongoing,” he said.

As of Tuesday evening, police had not named any suspects. In Jakarta, a spokesman for the national police said West Papua police are still investigating the case.

„[The] The investigation into this case is still ongoing to identify the perpetrators, including the masterminds of the two warring groups…the most important thing is that the regional police bring the situation under control first,” Brig. Gen. Gen. Ahmad Ramadhan told a news conference .

Police will call another meeting with religious figures and community leaders to try to prevent further clashes, he added.

“We are asking for confidence in the police to enforce the law on this case until it is resolved. The public is asked to refrain from retaliation,” he said.

According to local media reports, soldiers from a military base in Sorong had joined police patrols in key areas.

In 2019, Indonesian authorities identified the easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua as areas of the country most prone to conflict due to tensions between ethnic and religious groups and the presence of armed separatist groups.

Earlier this month, inter-ethnic fighting in Jayawijaya, a regency in the mountainous interior of Papua province, left two dead and 22 wounded and 34 houses burned.

Nduga ethnic people and members of another ethnic group from the neighboring Lanny Jaya regency clashed, police said. Two Nduga men were killed on January 8, including one who was shot with an arrow.

In a statement released on a police portal on Jan. 16, Jayawijaya Police Chief Muh Safei said the two sides had settled their dispute.

“We no longer hurt each other, and when problems arise, we are ready to open the door for solutions, mediation and communication,” the statement quoted him as saying.

As part of the settlement, Lanny Jaya regent Befa Jigibalom had agreed to compensate the families of the Nduga victims with a total of 2.5 billion rupiah (US$174,207) in cash and twenty pigs, it said.

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