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Blasts, shots and arson mark night in Ambon after killings AMBON - Sporadic shooting, bombing and arson continued in the eastern Indonesian city of Ambon after an outbreak of Muslim-Christian violence killed at least 11 people and injured scores. The sound of blasts and shotgun fire could be heard Monday and dark smoke columns rose from various districts following deadly clashes the previous day, residents said.
"Blasts and the sounds of gunshots have been heard intermittently since around three this morning (1800 GMT Sunday) and they are continuing," said Rivai Ambon, the head of the Al Fatah hospital in the city. He said he had not left his home but smoke was rising from several areas of the city, which still bears the scars of three years of major sectarian battles in parts of the Maluku islands.
Sunday's outbreak of violence was one of the worst since a peace pact in February 2002 ended the fighting between the two communities, in which some 5,000 people died and half a million people were forced to flee their homes. Soldiers and police have deployed in force between the Christian and Muslim sectors of the city. Some 200 paramilitary police reinforcements flown in from Jakarta arrived in Ambon Monday morning, said an officer on duty at the airport.
An AFP correspondent said fires hit at least five residential areas, including the two refugee resettlement areas of Airmata Cina and Tawake. It was not clear who set the fires. Muslim and Christian residents, some armed with machetes and sticks, stood guard in their respective areas. Only a few stalls were open to sell essentials and most shops had their shutters closed. "We seem to be back now to the same conditions as at the beginning of the conflict in 1999. The Christians remain in their sector and the Muslims remain in theirs," said Olin Tutamahu, an employee at the newly-renovated local UN mission which was one of several buildings torched on Sunday.
"There is a clear demarcation line and no one crosses it either way." Tutamahu said she had not ventured out of her house. She said occasional shots could still heard Monday morning and smoke was rising from several areas. Sunday's violence followed a banned parade by mainly Christian separatists of the Maluku Sovereignty Front to mark to mark the 54th anniversary of the proclamation of a self-styled South Maluku Republic. They traded jeers, insults and stones with mainly Muslim opponents.
One resident said police intervened and tried to steer the convoy towards police headquarters. A mainly Muslim crowd that believed police were merely escorting the procession began to pelt the officers with stones, the resident said. Din Kelilau, a local Muslim activist, said police responded with shots. It was not immediately clear whether these were warning shots or aimed at the crowd.
Rivai said more than 50 people were admitted to his hospital near the city's main mosque and seven of them had died, all from gunshots. A check at two other hospitals showed that two had died of gunshot wounds and one of a heart attack at the Haulussy general hospital and a schoolgirl died of a gunshot wound at the Rahayu hospital. The sectarian conflict began in January 1999 after a trivial argument between a bus driver and a passenger from separate faiths. It had claimed 5,000 lives by the time a government-brokered peace deal came into force 13 months later.



Posted in Maluku conflict @ 26 April 2004 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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