Police say 1 soldier killed in protest in Indonesia's Papua

JAKARTA, Indonesia — At least one Indonesian soldier was killed and five police officers were injured Wednesday in a violent protest against racism in the country's restive Papua region, police said.

National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said a peaceful protest by 150 people against racism at the Deiyai district chief's office turned violent when thousands of others tried to storm the building with arrows and machetes from various directions.

He could not confirm local media reports that security forces responded by opening fire and killing six people, citing communication difficulties after the government blocked internet access in the region last week.

A number of violent protests have roiled Papua since last week, triggered by videos circulated on the internet showing security forces calling Papuan students "monkeys" and "dogs" in East Java's Surabaya city.

A group of 50 Papuan students in the capital, Jakarta, staged a second protest on Wednesday and called for independence for Papua, a former Dutch colony in the western part of New Guinea that is ethnically and culturally distinct from much of Indonesia.

Papua was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a U.N.-sponsored ballot that was seen as a sham by many. Since then, a low-level insurgency has simmered in the mineral-rich region, which is divided into two provinces, Papua and West Papua.

In recent years, some Papua students, including some who study in other provinces, have become vocal in calling for self-determination for their region.

Protests in several cities in Papua and West Papua provinces have turned violent over the past week, but Prasetyo said the situation is now under control and activities have returned to normal in recent days.

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