Fresh unrest broke out in Indonesia's restive Papua region on Monday as protesters burned down a government office and other buildings in Wamena, the capital of the Jayawijaya district in Papua, forcing local officials to close the Wamena Airport - Photo: Antara.

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – 21 residents, one army, six polices were killed, hundreds injured, and 1,500 were displaced during fresh riot in Waimena, in Papua region on Monday (09/23). Protesters burned down a government office and other buildings in the capital of the Jayawijaya district forcing local officials to close the Wamena Airport, local media reported.

“Number of residents, army, and polices become a victim during the riots,” spokesman of Cendrawasih Police Eko Daryanto told the media.

Following the riots, three flights to Wamena Airport had been closed by order of the authorities since 10.30 a.m. Eastern Indonesian Time on Monday, which is around one kilometer from the airport. There is no word on when it will be reopened.

On average, 120 flights go through the airport, located in the popular tourist destination Baliem Valley, every day. Three cargo planes managed to depart from the airport on Monday morning before all operations were shut down.

A riot broke out in Wamena – mostly involving high schoolers – was allegedly sparked by racist comments made by a teacher, Antara reported. But the local police confirmed that the news was not true. At the moment the hoax spreaders are being hunted.

“Regarding the issue of saying racism is not true. We have also asked the school and teachers and we make sure there are no racist words. We hope the people in Wamena and in Papua are not easy to provoke issues that are not necessarily true,” Papua regional police spokesman Ahmad Musthofa Kamal said in a statement.

In Jakarta, national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said police officers and army soldiers have been deployed to subdue the chaos in some parts of the district capital this morning.

“Police and soldiers are working to handle the situation and prevent the riot from spreading. Some public facilities had been damaged. Security forces have also taken steps to prevent the riots from spreading,” he told reporters.

The latest unrest comes as Papua – on the western half of New Guinea island – has been gripped by weeks of violent protests fuelled by anger over racism, as well as fresh calls for self-rule in Indonesia’s easternmost territory.

Demonstrations broke out across the region after the mid-August arrest and tear-gassing of dozens of Papuan students, who were also racially abused, in Indonesia’s second-biggest city, Surabaya in East Java.

A low-level separatist insurgency has simmered for decades in Papua, a former Dutch colony after Jakarta took over the mineral-rich region in the 1960s. A vote to stay within the archipelago was widely viewed as rigged.

Indonesia has sent thousands of security personnel to Papua to quell the unrest, and dozens were arrested for instigating the earlier riots. At least five demonstrators and a soldier were killed, but activists say the civilian death toll is higher.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: lexy@theinsiderstories.com