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Death toll from violence in Indonesia’s New Papua hits 26

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A building burns as fresh protests break out in Wamena City, in Indonesia's Papua region, on September 23, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

The death toll from violence in Indonesia’s restless Papua region has reached 26, officials say, as thousands of local residents fled to shelters after another day of violent protests fueled by outrage over racism.

Local officials announced the upgraded toll on Tuesday, adding that many of the victims were burned alive in government buildings set ablaze by angry protesters in the impoverished territory, which is located in the western half of New Guinea Island.

The region has been gripped by weeks of violent rallies, with people also demanding self-rule.

Local military commander Chandra Dianto said, “Some [victims] were burned, some were hacked to death... some were trapped in fires.”

“(We’re) going to scour the debris to look for more possible victims in shops and stalls that were set on fire,” the commander added.

Another 70 people have been confirmed injured.

Dianto said nearly 700 people had been detained for questioning over the deadly riots.

Most of the recent clashes have been between separatist protesters and Indonesian security forces.

Reports have said that a soldier and three civilians were also killed Monday in the provincial capital, Jayapura, where security forces and stone-throwing protesters engaged in clashes. The soldier was stabbed to death and three students died from rubber bullet wounds, officials said, without elaborating.

The government in Jakarta has attributed the latest riots to alleged efforts to draw attention to Papuan independence during this week’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

Weeks of demonstrations broke out across the region and in other parts of Indonesia after the mid-August arrest and tear-gassing of Papuan students, who say are also racially abused in the country’s second-largest city of Surabaya.

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