Thousands riot in Papua, parliament building torched

Protesters burn tires in Manokwari, West Papua, Indonesia. (Reuters)
Updated 19 August 2019

Thousands riot in Papua, parliament building torched

  • Monday’s riots were triggered by reports that authorities tear-gassed and detained some 43 Papuan university students in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya
  • Papua, which has been the scene of a decades-long insurgency against Indonesian rule, shares a border with independent Papua New Guinea (PNG)

MANOKWARI, Indonesia: Riots broke out and a local parliament building was torched in Indonesia’s Papua on Monday, as thousands protested against the weekend detention of pro-independence student activists.
An AFP reporter on the scene estimated several thousand protesters took to the streets of Manokwari, the capital of West Papua province, bringing the city of some 130,000 to a standstill.
Some demonstrators also set fire to shops and vehicles, knocked down street signs, and threw rocks at government buildings.
“The parliament building has been set on fire,” West Papua deputy governor Mohamad Lakotani told Kompas TV.
“Downtown, markets, the port and shops are all affected. All activities are basically paralyzed,” he added.
Three police officers were injured by rock-throwing protesters, police said. It was not immediately clear if any demonstrators were injured.
Authorities closed local schools for the day.
Papua, which has been the scene of a decades-long insurgency against Indonesian rule, shares a border with independent Papua New Guinea (PNG), just north of Australia.
A former Dutch colony, Papua declared itself independent in 1961, but neighboring Indonesia took control of the resource-rich region following a UN-sponsored independence referendum that was widely viewed as a sham.
Monday’s riots were triggered by reports that authorities tear-gassed and detained some 43 Papuan university students in the Southeast Asian nation’s second-biggest city Surabaya on Saturday — Indonesia’s independence day.
Local media and Papuan activists said police in riot gear stormed into a dormitory and used tear gas in a bid to force out students who allegedly destroyed an Indonesian flag.
National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo did not deny reports that police used tear gas, but said the students in Surabaya were only “questioned” briefly before being set free.
Television footage on Saturday also showed a different group of protesters demonstrating against the students and shouting racial slurs about Papuans.
Indonesia routinely blames separatists for violence in Papua and conflicting accounts are common.
The country’s security forces have for years been dogged by allegations of widespread rights abuses against Papua’s ethnic Melanesian population including extrajudicial killings of activists and peaceful protesters.
Hundreds also protested in Jayapura, the region’s biggest city, on Monday.


US service member killed in action in Afghanistan

Updated 41 min 28 sec ago

US service member killed in action in Afghanistan

  • The death brings the number of US military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan this year to at least 17
  • The latest US fatality comes after talks between Washington and the Taliban crumbled.

KABUL: An American service member was killed in Afghanistan, the US-led NATO mission said Monday, the latest US fatality after talks between Washington and the Taliban crumbled.
“A US service member was killed in action today in Afghanistan,” NATO’s Resolute Support mission said in a brief statement.
The death brings the number of US military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan this year to at least 17, just as Washington is seeking a way out of its longest war.
NATO did not immediately provide any additional information regarding the circumstances of the deadly incident.
About a week ago, President Donald Trump abruptly called off talks with the Taliban, which were aimed at paving the way for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan following 18 years of armed conflict.
“They are dead. As far as I am concerned, they are dead,” Trump said.
The announcement followed Trump’s cancelation of a top-secret plan to fly Taliban leaders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to the Camp David presidential compound outside Washington for talks.
Trump in part blamed the death of a US soldier in a huge Taliban bombing in Kabul for his change of heart on negotiations.
Until the talks were called off, there had been steadily mounting expectations of a deal that would see the US draw down troop levels in Afghanistan — from roughly 13,000 to about 8,000 next year.
In return, the Taliban would offer security guarantees to keep extremist groups out.
Last week, NATO said the focus of its Resolute Support mission remained “unchanged” — to train and advise local forces.
“NATO will stay in Afghanistan for as long as necessary to ensure the country never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists,” an alliance official told AFP.