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Explosions, gunfire rock Ambon for fourth day AMBON - Gunfire and explosions rocked this provincial capital on Wednesday, leaving at least eight wounded as Christians and Muslims clashed for a fourth day in Indonesia's Maluku islands. Shortly after dawn, unidentified assailants launched attacks in several districts of Ambon. Plumes of smokes could be seen rising from at least two locations, and gunfire rang out across the religiously-divided city for several hours.
Ambon police chief Brig. Gen. Bambang Sutrisno said officers were collecting casualty figures, but claimed security was improving in the province, where Muslim-Christian violence three years ago killed 9,000 people. "We believe things are getting better,'' he told The Associated Press. Eight Muslims - all with bullet or blast wounds - were taken to an Islamic hospital as a result of Wednesday's violence, staffers there said. At least 24 people have been killed in the city since Sunday.
The fighting erupted after several members of the region's small, largely Christian, separatist movement rallied in the city center. Muslims, who view such public displays as a provocation, assaulted the demonstrators, touching off the sectarian clashes. The earlier conflict here galvanized militant Muslims across Indonesia, and it also attracted Islamic fighters from around Southeast Asia and from the Middle East. Many members of Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaida-linked extremist group blamed for a series of deadly bombings in Indonesia, have told authorities that they fought in the conflict.
The region, which was known as the Spice Islands during Dutch colonial rule, was once held up as a model of religious harmony. Now the two communities live in separate districts. Unlike most of mainly Muslim Indonesia, the province's 2 million people are evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. Most of the Muslims in the Malukus are settlers who were moved to the region from other densely populated islands in the 1970s and '80s under ex-dictator Suharto's migration program to dilute secessionist sentiment in non-Muslim areas.
Christians complain that the settlers have come to dominate government work and retail sector, siphoning off jobs and business from Christians.



Posted in Maluku conflict @ 28 April 2004 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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