Indonesia boosts security in Papua after 9 killed in riot

More than 200 security personnel sent to Wamena town after child kidnap rumour sparks deadly riot and clashes with police.

Indonesian security forces and residents clean up the debris of buildings that were torched during riots in Wamena, Papua, Indonesia, in 2019
Indonesian security forces and residents clean up the debris of buildings torched during riots in Wamena, Papua, Indonesia, in 2019 [File: Tyaga Anandra/EPA-EFE]

At least nine people have been killed and 14 injured in rioting and clashes with police in Papua’s Wamena town after rumours circulated that a child had been kidnapped, local media and an official said.

More than 200 security personnel, including police and the military, have been deployed to contain the situation in the restive Indonesian province, police said on Friday.

There has been no further violence since Thursday’s attacks on property and casualties, Papua province police spokesperson Ignatius Benny Ady Prabowo said by telephone on Friday.

The riot was reported to have started after locals, angered by rumours of a child kidnapping, started throwing rocks at Wamena police station where a man was detained over an alleged abduction, Prabowo said.

As tension flared over the rumour, police summoned the parents to clarify that their child was safe and not kidnapped. But the reassurance failed to stem public anger and more buildings were set ablaze in the area, the police spokesperson added.

Local news outlet Jubi TV quoted a local police officer as calling for calm and for people to not be “provoked by things that turn the situation into chaos”.


Once governed by Indonesia’s former colonial ruler the Netherlands, Papua was brought under Indonesian control following a controversial United Nations-backed referendum in 1969 in which only 1,026 people were allowed to participate.

The West Papua National Liberation Army has struggled for independence for decades and tension has been running high since the rebels recently abducted a New Zealand pilot.

The Indonesian military said it was prepared to conduct a “law enforcement operation” as a last resort to free the pilot if negotiations failed to secure his release.

Papua is Indonesia’s poorest region, despite its wealth of natural resources.

An estimated 35,000 people, many of them children, were forced from their homes in the vicinity of Wamena in 2019 as the Indonesian military attempted to root out Papuan independence fighters who had attacked a road construction project and killed at least 17 people in December 2018.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies