TITLE=INDONESIA / VIOLENCE (L-ONLY)
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
Thousands of Christians, who dominate the sub-district
of 50-thousand people, went on a rampage beginning
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
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
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.
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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)
30-Dec-1999 07:28 AM EDT (30-Dec-1999 1228 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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