Indonesia deploys 1,000 police to West Papua to quell protests

By Tia Asmara and Joshua Berlinger, CNN |

People flee as the local market is seen burning during a protest in Fakfak in Indonesia’s Papua province Wednesday.

Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN)Indonesia has sent more than a thousand security personnel to quell protests in the restive provinces of Papua and West Papua, as violence spirals in the region. The protests were sparked by allegations that Indonesian police used excessive force on a group of Papuan students, after they were accused of throwing the country’s flag into a ditch.

On Wednesday, protesters set buildings alight, damaged the local parliament and airport and engaged in pitched battles with police, authorities said. One thousand police personnel from across Indonesia and 100 soldiers from the Indonesian Army have been deployed to stop the unrest.

Six hundred were deployed to Manokwari, the capital of West Papua; 300 to Sorong, the province’s largest city; and 100 to the town of Fakfak, according to West Papua Police spokesman Mathias Krey.

Internet access to the region was also temporarily throttled, according to Indonesia’s communications ministry.

Krey said calm had been restored Thursday and that several people had been detained and were being questioned by police. “People are getting to school, working, traditional market is open and road access is open, people back to their activity,” he said.

Papua and West Papua are home to a long-simmering and occasionally violent separatist movement, but the recent unrest was sparked by events hundreds of miles away in the city of Surabaya, on the island of Java.

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