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Indonesia

Papuan anger simmers over killings of father and son

Hundreds of indigenous people protest against shootings of civilians by Indonesian military

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Papuan anger simmers over killings of father and son

Papuans hold a protest on July 27 to demand a thorough investigation into the July 19 killings of a father and son in Nduga district. (Photo supplied)

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Hundreds of indigenous people have staged a protest in a mass call for justice for a father and son shot dead recently by Indonesian soldiers and for other civilians killed by security forces in Papua.

Papuans took to the streets of Nduga district to demand authorities press for an investigation into the deaths of Elias Karunggu and his son Selu Karunggu on July 18.

Wearing traditional costumes, they carried a cross with photographs of the two victims and others killed in the area during the past two years.

Nduga has become the focus of military operations following the murder by armed separatists of a soldier and 19 workers who were constructing a bridge in the area in December 2018.

According to human rights groups, tens of thousands of people were displaced and 257 Papuans have died from violence and hunger as a result of the military response to the murders.

Protest organizer Darson Lokbere said the shootings this month showed the military had no respect for Papuans and that the victims were "shot and killed like animals."

He called the cross the protesters were carrying "a symbol of the suffering we experience."

The military commander in Papua, General Gusti Nyoman Suriastawa, has confirmed the shootings but claimed the father and son were separatist rebels.

That claim was dismissed by Lokbere, who repeated claims by rights groups that the pair were ordinary civilians who fled their village as a result of the 2018 violence and who wanted to return to their home.

Nduga district chief Yairus Gwijangge said he would back the protesters by calling for a thorough probe.

Ikabus Gwijangge, a local lawmaker, said people in the area have been left feeling “bitter” as a result of the presence of the military and paramilitaries in the area.

"The presence of the military in this region means people are unable to live their lives freely and the threat of violence is always there," he said.

Theo Hesegem, a human rights activist at the protest, said they were pressing for a fact-finding team to look into the recent killings.

"The military’s claims are different from the information we have obtained ... so as to shrug off pressure and continue the killing of civilians," he said.

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