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DATE=12/30/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=INDONESIA / VIOLENCE (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-257619 BYLINE=RON CORBEN DATELINE=BANGKOK CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Indonesia's military has reported further sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians on the island of Halmahera, North of the troubled island, Ambon. Ron Corben reports from our Southeast Asia Bureau in Bangkok, the latest bloodshed has taken a heavy toll, with 255-dead and more than 200 injured . TEXT: Sectarian violence that has swept through the eastern Indonesian Malukan region, has spread to the island of Halmahera. The Chief of a military sub-district on the island, Captain Made Parsim, told news agencies that despite some reduction in fighting the situation remained tense. Captain Parsim said black smoke still poured from burned-out homes, shops and places of worship. The official said his force of just 17-soldiers has been unable to assure security in the sub-district, where there is now evidence of looting, especially for food. Thousands of Christians, who dominate the sub-district of 50-thousand people, went on a rampage beginning late Monday. Up to 12-thousand people, both Muslim and Christian, have sought safety and refuge at a local army barracks and the sub-district police headquarters, in a bid to escape the terror of gangs. Meanwhile, in the Malukan capital of Ambon, where more than 60 deaths have been reported, an uneasy calm descended on the town. The reduction in violence came after the military took control of security from the police Wednesday. A military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Budiman, said stores re-opened in Ambon city, while other businesses and government offices remained closed. This week's descent into anarchy among the islands once known for religious harmony and tolerance, has prompted clergy to call for U-N intervention. The fresh appeals follow similar requests to U-N Secretary-General Kofi Annan by religious leaders last month. Officials say 800-people have been killed this year. Unofficial estimates put the toll at twice that number. Indonesia's military is urging the government to impose martial law in the province. It says both sides are covertly arming themselves and warns the bloodshed could escalate into a full-fledged war. But Indonesian President, Abdurrahman Wahid, who visited Ambon earlier this month to press for religious tolerance, has so far rejected the call. Mr. Wahid says the outcome, if the military takes over, would be uncertain. /// REST OPT /// The media in Jakarta has criticized officials for their failure to end the violence. "The Jakarta Post" newspaper says, although, the government's lack of decisiveness has contributed to the escalation of violence the armed services and police must take the larger share of the blame. Foreign aid workers in Ambon accused some of the mostly Christian police of fighting Muslim soldiers, which they said added to the breakdown in cooperation and communication between security forces. (SIGNED) NEB/RC/FC/RAE 30-Dec-1999 07:28 AM EDT (30-Dec-1999 1228 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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