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Jakarta Post

Wamena residents flee in mass exodus following attack rumor

  • Benny Mawel

    The Jakarta Post

Jayapura   /   Sat, September 28, 2019   /   07:33 pm
Wamena residents flee in mass exodus following attack rumor Papuan protesters ride a truck as they gather at a university in provincial capital Jayapura on Sept. 23, as fresh protests break out in the restive region. (AFP/Faisal Narwawan)

After the student protests that ended in unrest and killings in Wamena, Papua, on Monday, both indigenous and non-indigenous residents have started to leave the city.

The residents are fleeing the city amid rumors that there will be a huge military deployment to prevent further turbulence in the area.

Some of them are heading to areas in and around Jayawijaya, while some of the transmigrants left Wamena for Jayapura and Timika.

Engelbert Surabut, a civil servant in the Jayawijaya administration, said the residents were fleeing as a result of many rumors about worsening security in the city.

“The rumor about security personnel dropping and sweeping toward indigenous Papuans has made everyone leave the town,” he told journalists on Thursday.

Papuans have also moved to Yalimo, Yahukimo, Lanny Jaya, Tolikara and Puncak regencies, which are the new municipalities outside Jayawijaya.

“The shops are all closed. Some that dared to stay open have only opened half of their doors. The offices are still closed,” he said.

“The people from the surrounding regencies have returned to their hometowns,” Natogorek Dawi, a teacher at YAPP St. Thomas high school told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

He said the mass exodus had made Jayawijaya residents confused and they could not predict the situation in the future.

Ayong, a Wamena resident said there were around 5,000 evacuees scattered across several refuge points in Jayawijaya.

“The main points are the Jayawijaya police station and military post. Some are staying in churches,” he said. 

He said 2,000 evacuees had reported to the Air Force to leave Wamena.

Several local and national media outlets have reported that the Indonesian Air Force’s Hercules planes have taken hundreds of people to Jayapura and Timika.

Previously, the Indonesian Military (TNI) confirmed that the death toll of Monday’s unrest had risen to 32.

Students in the city staged protests that escalated into violence on Monday, with some reportedly burning government offices and shop-houses. The chaos, the Papua Police said, was triggered by “baseless information” about a teacher who allegedly used a racial slur against a student.

Many of the deceased victims were found trapped inside their burned houses. (gis)