President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has blamed a local armed group for the deadly riots in Wamena, Papua, last week, which killed at least 33 people, ordering authorities to hunt down those responsible for the unrest.
In a press conference on Monday, Jokowi said an armed criminal group (KKB) had come down from the mountains of Jayawijaya regency, torched people’s houses and instigated riots that sent thousands of residents fleeing the affected areas for fear of further violence.
He did not elaborate on the name of the group or who its leaders may be.
“I have ordered Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister [Wiranto], the Indonesian Military [TNI] and the police to chase after uncaptured rioters,” he said.
The President, who also extended his condolences to victims’ families, emphasized that security forces had been working hard to protect all citizens as he brushed aside concerns that the riots in Wamena stemmed from ethnic conflict.
Wamena saw violent unrest last Monday as a mob, reportedly native Papuans, set buildings on fire, destroying vehicles and attacking people with weapons.
The fatalities were mostly non-native Papuans, according to authorities.
Previous reports said that around 6,700 residents have turned shelters in Wamena, including at the TNI headquarters, while 2,670 others have fled the city with the help of the Air Force.
Another 10,000 people have signed up to be airlifted out, according to the commander of the Silas Parepare Air Base in Jayapura, Air Cdre. Tri Bowo Budi Santoso.
“[The evacuation] to Jayapura is set to continue because there are those who fear [for their lives], but we continue to call on the public to remain in Wamena because our security forces can secure [the city],” said Jokowi.