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Villagers evacuate as tribal war escalates

Tuesday 2 August 2016 | Published in Regional

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WEST PAPUA – Clashes in the remote Papua province of Indonesia on the weekend have left three people dead and dozens injured, along with 25 houses burned down.

Police said scores of vehicles were also set alight, as ethnic violence drove hundreds of people to evacuate Timika for the provincial capital, Jayapura.

More than 350 people were now staying in the Toli dormitory in Sentani, according to the Jakarta Post.

Joni Wonda, who was coordinating the evacuees, said many others wanted to leave Timika but couldn’t get flights out.

Mira Kogoya, a 25-year-old evacuee, said the latest clash went beyond customary rules, with attackers killing everything they found in the street, including pigs and dogs.

She said they also burned houses, attacked women and children and raped and killed people.

Members of both the military and the police have been put on guard in the Kwamki Narama district.

The Indonesian Embassy in Wellington told Radio New Zealand the clash occurred in Ileale Village, between followers of Hosea Ongomang, of the Amungme-Damal tribe and followers of Genius Kogoya and Thomas Kum, of the Dani tribe.

Nundison Kogoya, a third grade senior high school strudent in Timika, who was among the evacuees in Jayapura, said that when his village was attacked on Monday, he was at home, preparing to go to school.

“All of a sudden they came to our village and attacked us. An arrow hit me on my leg and I ran away into the forest,” Nudison said.

He said he returned to his house in the afternoon for medical help.

The coordinator of the evacuees from Timika, Danison Wenda, said people had lost their homes and possessions as the attackers had burned and looted their houses.

“It’s a brutal war. The customary regulations in war ban people from attacking women and children, but this time they even killed school children,” Danison said.

He said the evacuees had been left homeless as they were too traumatised to return to their village.

“They will only return when there is a guarantee from the government that no more war will prevail there.”

Papua’s police chief Paulus Waterpauw is reportedly now in Timika attempting to create peace between the two warring groups and has approached community figures on both sides.

“If peace is difficult to achieve, the security apparatus will take stern action,” he told reporters.

Military soldiers and the police have been put on guard to prevent the conflict continuing.

Chairman of the Paniai customary institution, John Gobay, asked the police to arrest the chiefs on each side of the clash while suggesting that during the reconciliation period, parties should have heart-to-heart talks to uncover the root causes of the ongoing conflict.

He added that many of the people in the mountainous regions were actually related and that everything could be solved through dialogue. - RNZI