Police opened fire and killed two men and injured a woman as a dispute over a traffic accident spun out of control in the restive province of Papua, officials said on Thursday.
Police were forced to use lethal force in self-defence when dozens of angry residents became violent after a motorist fled the scene of an accident in the city of Manokwari, provincial police spokesman Wachyono said.
The mob, armed with knives and spears, blocked roads and threw stones at police who arrived at the scene late Wednesday, he said.
“Our members opened fire at the angry residents. They did it automatically in self-defence against people who brought knives, spears and wooden sticks,” Wachyono said.
“I believe they felt their lives were threatened. If they hadn’t opened fire they would have been hit by the residents,” he added, rejecting allegations the police used excessive force.
Papuan tribal representative Dominikus Sorabut, from the Papuan Customary Council, said heavily armed “Mobile Brigade” police acted out of revenge after the mob pelted them with stones.
“The policeman who was hit by stones ran back to his station and came back with a troupe and acted blindly by shooting people,” he said.
Earlier this month police killed six people in Central Sulawesi province after locals rose up against them in anger at the death in custody of a local man who had been arrested for traffic infringements.
Police had to be pulled out of the town of Buol for their own safety as furious residents roamed the streets looking for them.