Riots in Indonesia's Papua after independence activist killed

JAKARTA Thu Jun 14, 2012 9:46am BST

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JAKARTA (Reuters) - Angry residents of Indonesia's resource-rich Papua island burned cars and shops on Thursday after an independence activist was shot and killed, police and human rights activists said.

A low-level insurgency for independence has simmered on Indonesia's easternmost island for decades.

Mako Tabuni, deputy of a group pushing for a referendum on Papuan self-determination, was shot dead while resisting arrest, human rights activist Markus Haluk told Reuters.

Tabuni had been campaigning for an investigation into a recent spate of shootings.

"This is not law enforcement, this is ridiculous," Haluk told Reuters by telephone from Jayapura, the province's main town.

"Security forces are using the excuse of law enforcement to shoot, using the classic excuse of the separatist group stigma," Haluk said of Tabuni's killing.

Police confirmed Tabuni's death saying he was shot in the hip and leg and died on his way to hospital.

News of the killing brought people out onto the streets of Jayapura and some of them torched shops and vehicles. Television footage showed police inspecting burned out buildings and smoldering cars.

Papua is the western half of an island that includes Papua New Guinea. Gold, gas and copper make Papua one of the richest areas in Indonesia and a hot destination for investment.

Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc has the big Grasberg copper and gold mine on the island and BP's Tangguh LNG field is centered at Papua's Bintuni Bay.

Resource companies share the island with indigenous communities, many of whom rely on hunting and subsistence farming and lack access to health care and education.

Indonesia, the world's third largest democracy and Southeast Asia's biggest economy, has struggled to control the low-key rebellion. Despite the deployment of substantial numbers of security forces, violence has recently intensified.

Papua's development lags the rest of Indonesia, an ethnically diverse country with the world's fourth largest population.

(Editing by Matthew Bigg and Robert Birsel)

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