Police Torch Houses in Papua: Tribal Council

TIMIKA ~ Police torched dozens of houses and killed pigs belonging to villagers in a restive Papua province as they searched for stolen weapons, a local tribal official said this week.

The wave of destruction on Sunday came after police shot dead a local man during a clash with an armed group outside the village two days earlier, according to the Papua Customary Council which represents tribal interests.

“About 500 police burnt down 30 houses and killed 32 pigs at Tingginere village on Sunday,” council official Dominikus Sorabut said.

“The police said they were looking for stolen weapons. Residents are now staying at neighboring villages… They’re worried and frightened.”

Police rejected the claims but admitted searching Tingginere, in central Papua, for weapons stolen from a police post on Thursday.

“No house was burnt down and no farm animals were taken away from residents,” police spokesman Senior Commissioner Agus Riyanto said.

He said the search came after a clash between police and men armed with stolen weapons in which a man identified as Wenda Muli was killed.

“Police shot Muli on the chest after he tried to shoot police with a rifle he stole from a police post a day earlier. Two other men were also wounded and sent to the hospital,” Riyanto said.

He said the clash erupted when the armed group stopped a police patrol from entering the village.

Police were investigating whether the men were members of the Free Papua Movement, a poorly-armed separatist group which has waged a low-level insurgency for decades in the resource-rich eastern province.

Indonesian security forces are often accused of human rights violations in Papua, which was incorporated into Indonesia after a UN-sponsored vote of select tribal elders in 1969.

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