Ambon, more Muslim-Christian violence: 16 injured, houses burnt
by Mathias Hariyadi
More unrest in the Moluccas, long-time site of sectarian clashes. Police seize weapons, including Molotov cocktails, arrows and machetes. On December 12, two wounded in an ambush. The central government condemns the incidents and calls for respect for the law. Army chief claims the situation is "under control".
Jakarta (AsiaNews) - 16 people were wounded, one from a gunshot wound to the chest, in sectarian violence in the city of Ambon, the capital of the Moluccas. At dawn yesterday two opposing factions, separated by a road, clashed in a bitter battle at the end of which some houses were set on fire. Local sources said that the violence began late in the evening of December 12, with an exchange of insults and the throwing of fire bombs between the two opposing camps. Overnight, the situation degenerated to the point of urban warfare, only quelled by police intervention. Officers seized several weapons including Molotov cocktails and "traditional" arrows, machetes and spears.
Yesterday’s clashes followed just 24 hours after a previous episode of violence: on December 12 two people were seriously injured, following a knife attack, so far the police are not able to identify the assailants. Ambon police chief, Soeharwiyono, said yesterday that the violence is linked to the events of 11 September, when street clashes broke out between the Muslim majority and Christian minority.
The clashes were triggered by the accidental death of a Muslim taxi driver. The rumor spread among the Islamic community that he had been attacked by Christians and, in street battles that ensued, nine people were killed and 60 others injured. In late September, however, the police found three pipe bombs inside the Maranatha Protestant church, near the local bus station. The intervention of bomb disposal units averted further bloodshed.
Meanwhile in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, the political controversy surrounding yesterday’s violence is mounting: Djoko Suyanto, ex army chief and Coordinating Minister for Legal, Political and Security Affairs strongly condemns the incident, at the same time, he has ordered the governor of the Moluccas and the chief of security in the region to "take appropriate measures" to contain further outbreaks of tension. In Jakarta Indonesian army chief Agus Suharto claims that the situation is now "under control".