Thousands scramble to flee unrest in Indonesia’s Papua
WAMENA, Indonesia): Thousands of scared residents in Indonesia's Papua scrambled to board military planes Friday, fleeing urban unrest after one of the region's deadliest eruptions of violence in years.
Anger over racism against indigenous Papuans by residents from other parts of Indonesia has fuelled weeks of angry protests in the impoverished region, as well as fresh calls for self-rule.
Violence broke out again this week in Wamena city where over two dozen people were killed.
Authorities said that some were burned alive when buildings were set on fire, while others were stabbed during the chaos.
Some 700 Wamena residents – mostly migrants from other parts of the country – were evacuated on Friday to other parts of the country, the military said.
A further 1,500 residents gathered at a local airport Friday in a bid to leave, according to local air force official Arief Sudjatmiko, who added that at least 2,500 people had registered to get aboard flights.
"Our lives are at risk here," Debora Sibuea, who planned to return to her hometown in Sumatra, told AFP.
"My house was set on fire, stalls were set on fire, even government offices were burned," she said.
The fresh violence this week was reportedly sparked by racist comments made by a teacher towards students in Wamena, but police have disputed that account.
In August, protests broke out across Papua and in other parts of the country after the arrest, racial abuse and tear-gassing of dozens of Papuan students, in the city of Surabaya.
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