Jakarta (AsiaNews) - At least 14 people have died in sectarian clashes in Kalianda, a town some 150 km west of Jakarta in the Indonesian province of Lampung, Sumatra Island. Scores of homes were torched and thousands of people were displaced. Some 3,000 security forces have been deployed in the area to protect ethnic Balinese who have been living in the area for decades.
Clashes broke out on Sunday and continued yesterday. Tensions remain high today. Analysts and observers note that this latest incident highlights the precarious social, economic and cultural situation of the world's largest Muslim nation, which has always prided itself as a multiethnic and multicultural country, respectful of religious freedom.
In the village of Balinuraga, scores of homes, cars and motorbikes belonging to ethnic Balinese were torched or damaged, local sources said.
Although none of the attackers have been identified, what is clear is that thousands of natives attacked minority Balinese with Molotov cocktails and makeshift explosive devices.
The outburst was apparently caused by two Balinese youth flirting with two local young women on a motorbike. As result of the men's action, the latter got into an accident with minor injuries.
This was sufficient to provoke native Muslims who launched an all out attack against the predominantly Hindu Balinese.
Using Molotov cocktails and home-made guns, the Muslims targeted Balinese-owned homes, businesses and properties, setting them on fire and causing mayhem.
About 14 people died in the violence, and thousands were displaced.
Thousands of security forces moved in to impose order, but tensions remain high and the authorities have not ruled further violence.
Lampung province is predominantly Muslim, but communities coming from other parts of Indonesia have brought their different religions and traditions.
Under the rule of President Suharto (1966-1998), the authorities carried out a policy of 'transmigration' designed to "fill up" underpopulated regions of the country like Bengkulu, Riau, South Sumatra and Lampung with migrants from highly populated areas who brought their customs and religious practices as well as activities and businesses.