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Activist slaying sparks riot in Indonesia’s Papua

JAYAPURA, Indonesia >> Rioters angry over the killing of an independence activist by police set fires and killed one person in Indonesia’s restive Papua province before hundreds of security forces restored order, the police chief said Friday.

Mobs stabbed an onlooker to death, injured four other people and burned five shops, four cars and more than 20 motorbikes on Thursday, hours after they learned police had shot and killed Mako Tabuni, the deputy chairman of the National Committee for West Papua.

Shops were closed Friday, and many people were afraid to leave their homes.

“It is safe and quiet now. There are many troops on the streets,” said Papua police chief Maj. Gen. Bigman Lumban Tobing. He said police detained three people and seized several handmade bombs, machetes, arrows, separatist flags and documents during a raid in a student dormitory in Jayapura.

Tobing said Tabuni was shot Thursday morning when police tried to arrest him near Waena housing complex in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province. He said Tabuni fought back and grabbed a weapon from an officer before he was shot, and that he died hours later at a hospital.

Tobing said Tabuni was suspected in a recent spate of attacks in the province. He said 16 people, including seven soldiers and police, have been killed in different places in Papua since last month. Four were pro-independence activists.

A German tourist, Pieter Dietmar Helmut, was injured after a gunman shot him on a beach in Jayapura on May 29.

Tobing said that following Tabuni’s death, a crowd of protesters went on a rampage in Jayapura, many of them were carrying machetes and arrows. Police said most of those injured or killed in Thursday riot were settlers from elsewhere in Indonesia.

Papua, a former Dutch colony in the western part of New Guinea, was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a U.N.-sponsored ballot. A small, poorly armed separatist group known as the Free Papua Movement has battled for independence since then.

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