Activist killing sparks riot in Indonesia's Papua

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 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.

A low-level insurgency in the province remains an extremely sensitive issue for the government, which restricts access to foreign journalists, human rights workers and academics, making it difficult to verify claims of abuses.

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.

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.

Human Rights Watch, however, says the military is responsible for some of the violence. The New York-based group said the government is failing to adequately investigate the killings, and is preventing rights monitors and journalists from going to Papua to see for themselves.

"Allowing full access to the province for U.N. rights experts and the press could curtail the rumors and misinformation that often fuel abuses," Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia director, said in a statement Wednesday.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has conceded that Indonesian security forces have overreacted at times but said the attacks were "on a small scale with limited victims."

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's 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.