Skip to comments.Muslims, Christians Fight in Indonesia's Maluku Islands, 10 Killed, at Least 100 Wounded
Posted on 04/25/2004 7:09:21 PM PDT by BenLurkin
AMBON, Indonesia (AP) - Muslim and Christian gangs fought running battles in Indonesia's Maluku islands on Sunday, leaving at least 10 people dead - two of them youths hacked to death by sword-wielding men. At least 100 people were wounded in the clashes in the provincial capital Ambon, police said. At least three buildings were set ablaze, including a church and an office housing U.N. agencies working in the region. There were no reports of U.N. staffers being hurt.
More than 9,000 people were killed in the Malukus in a decade of fighting between Muslims and Christians that attracted Islamic militants from all over Southeast Asia.
The two groups signed a government-sponsored peace pact in 2002, but sporadic violence between them has continued and they now live in separate communities.
Sunday's clashes - some of the bloodiest since the truce - occurred after about a dozen members of the region's small Christian separatist movement paraded through Ambon to mark the anniversary of a failed independence bid 54 years ago.
Gangs of Muslim and Christian youths hurled rocks at each other in the center of the city, witnesses said. Gunfire was heard throughout the afternoon. Several small explosions rocked the city.
The bodies of eight Muslims - most of them with gunshot wounds - were taken to the city's Al-Fatah hospital, hospital director Riva Ambon said.
Police said they were investigating who shot the men. Witnesses said police and army were firing to disperse the rioters. There were also reports of unidentified gunmen firing from tall buildings in the city.
An Associated Press reporter saw a gang of around 50 people armed with swords and sticks hack two men to death close to the city's Pattimura University. The victims' bodies were left lying in the street. Their religious affiliation was not known.
Ambon police spokesman Lt. Col. Hendro Prasetyo said that calm had returned by nightfall and that authorities were meeting to discuss whether to impose a curfew on the city.
"People with no sense of responsibility triggered this unrest," he told el-Shinta radio station. He did not elaborate.
Efforts by Christian separatists to campaign for independence are regarded as a provocation by Muslims in the province, and police had vowed to stop them marking Sunday's anniversary.
Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, but Maluku's two million people are evenly divided between Muslims and Christians.
The Malukus are 1,600 miles east of Jakarta. Known as the Spice Islands during Dutch colonial days, the islands were once held up as a model of religious harmony.
The Europeans brought harmony wherever they went - due mostly to the exercise of force and authority.
Those days are long gone, the societies they attempted to create are backsliding into the semi-barbaric state in which the European's found them - and Islam is showing its true nature once again.