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Date Reported: Thursday, December 30, 1999
Incident Type: SECURITY

Incident: The daily Jakarta Kompas today reported the following developments in the ongoing inter-religious violence in the northern Moluccas of eastern Indonesia:

Inter-religious violence in the northern Moluccas is spreading, with seemingly no one able to bring it under control. Since the beginning of 1999 over 1000 persons have been killed in the region. The casualty totals have been increased in the past few days by the reporting of an additional 125 persons killed on Buru Island, 70 killed in Ambon, the capital of the island of the same name, and 7 killed on Ternate Island. Most recently 265 more persons were reported killed in Tobelo subdistrict on Halmahera Island (north of Ambon) in a 3-day orgy of violence earlier this week. Additional casualties in the Tobelo unrest included 127 persons seriously wounded, and 78 lightly wounded. At least 360 dwellings and other structures were burnt or otherwise destroyed. The unrest has made internal refugees of some 12,000 local residents who fled for safety to local military headquarters.

Aside from Tobelo, unrest also was reported from Galela, Halmahera Island, with refugees in two encampments attacking one another. 13 persons were killed in these violent incidents.

Continuing unrest also took place in the vicinity of Ambon. Clashes between two groups occurred in the villages of Pelau and Hulaliu on Haruku Island (central Moluccas-just east of Ambon). 6 persons were killed in that episode of violence. In the city of Ambon, government offices were closed, but small scale economic activity had returned in some neighborhoods. Some streets were still closed off by makeshift barricades. In related developments, clashes were reported between the private ceremonial guards of the sultans in the neighboring islands of Ternate and Tidore, just east of Halmahera. A Catholic high school compound was allegedly burnt down by mobs in Ternate.

(RISC Comment: The violence in the Moluccas pits Muslims against Christians. It began in early 1999 and has continued in successive waves throughout the year. The epicenter of the unrest has been the small island of Ambon, and especially its capital city of the same name. However, the violence has now spread to neighboring islands, including apparently, the quite isolated districts of Tobelo and Galela on the northeastern coast of Halmahera).

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