09/12/2011, 00.00

Moluccas: three dead and 60 wounded in clashes between Christians and Muslims

by Mathias Hariyadi
Accidental death of a Muslim taxi driver in Ambon sparks violence. The Islamic community spread the rumour that he had been attacked by Christians. Police intervention restores calm, but some stray bullets killed two people. Houses and properties of religious minority burned.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The toll from violent clashes yesterday between Christians and Muslims in Ambon, capital of the Moluccas, in the eastern Indonesian archipelago is three dead and about 60 wounded. The violence was triggered after the accidental death of a taxi driver who crashed his motorcycle. However, during the funeral a rumour was spread that Darkin Saimen - who lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a house – was attacked by a group of Christians. Riot police were called in to quell the reaction of the Islamic community. The officers fired shots, some stray bullets hit Djefry Siahaan (teacher in Ambon) in the stomach and Cliford Belegur (school student) in his left side, causing death.

Gen. Anton Bahrul Alam, national police spokesman, said that the autopsy confirmed the death of taxi driver in the crash. "The doctors found no sign of violence," said the officer, who adds that in the subsequent clashes, there were injuries and damage to public buildings. Anton, also declined to specify the names of the two factions who fought each other, avoiding mention of the religious faith of each. "These groups are known for some time [for their mutual hostility] ... - said the spokesman - We will not mention their names, but we assure you that [since 9 last night, ed] the situation is now come back under control."

Local sources, on condition of anonymity, told AsiaNews that the Muslim mob set fire to several Christian houses, forcing the occupants to leave the buildings. Meanwhile in Jakarta top politicians have gathered in a meeting to find solutions to the crisis given the extreme delicacy of the situation, they refuse to talk about "confessional" violence, instead referring to clashes between people belonging to "factions". Djoko Suyanto, a senior official for Legal Affairs, confirms that politicians and security officials "will be holding a summit this evening" to restore harmony in the theater of violence.

In the past there have been harsh conflicts in the Moluccas of a confessional nature between Christians and Muslims that have caused deaths and injuries. The arrival in 1999 in the area of thousands of Muslim settlers, coming from other parts of Indonesia, triggered the conflict, which continued until 2002 and caused at least 9 thousand deaths in repeated incidents. The signing of a peace treaty between the two sides in February 2002 - the Malino Peace Treaty, signed in South Sulawesi - put an end to the conflict.

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