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DATE=1/3/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=INDONESIA / AMBON (S&L) NUMBER=2-257717 BYLINE=GARY THOMAS DATELINE=BANGKOK CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Indonesian security forces are seizing weapons in a security sweep in the troubled Molucca Islands. Sectarian violence killed an estimated 15-hundred people in 1999 and shows no sign of abating in the new year. VOA correspondent Gary Thomas reports from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok. TEXT: Police and troops are going house-to-house in the Molucca Islands to seize weapons and arrest their owners. The weapons seized in Ambon, the provincial capital, range from standard military rifles and handguns to homemade bombs. An undisclosed number of people, including a policeman, have been arrested. The crackdown comes after the bloodiest spasm of violence so far. At least 300 people -- and perhaps many more -- were killed in clashes last week between Christians and Muslims in the Moluccas, also known as the Spice Islands. Thousands of other people have fled their homes in terror. The Indonesian military moved in December 29th to take direct control of security from local police. The military says its sweep will focus first on Ambon, scene of some of the worst violence, before moving on to other islands. // rest opt for long // The clashes began after the authoritarian rule of President Suharto ended in 1998 and the subsequent election last year of a democratic government. The end of a strong central government in Jakarta and a referendum on independence in East Timor has also breathed new life into political separatist movements in Aceh and Irian Jaya. Several countries, including Malaysia and the Netherlands - Indonesia's former colonial ruler - have offered assistance to help calm the unrest in the Moluccas, Irian Jaya, and Aceh. However, Indonesia's powerful Minister for Security Affairs, General Wiranto, has rejected offers of any outside help. Officials have also said they do not want any United Nations peacekeeping troops in Ambon. (SIGNED) NEB/GPT/FC 03-Jan-2000 06:00 AM EDT (03-Jan-2000 1100 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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