05/19/2005, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Terrorist plan to ignite inter-religious hatred in Maluku

by Mathias Hariyadi
Attack against a police post in Semar reveals links to 2000 Ambon violence. Christian and Muslim leaders call on the authorities to provide security.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Police suspect that a May 15 attack against a police post that left five policemen and a civilian dead at Loki, a village on Semar, the largest of the Maluku Islands, may be part of a plan by a group of terrorists to undermine the peaceful coexistence between local Muslims and Christians that was achieved with the 2002 Malino accord.

A ballistics report indicates in fact that the weapons used in Sunday's attack came from a police depot where they were taken during violent clashed in Ambon in 2000.

According Endro Prasetyo, spokesperson for the Maluku provincial police, about 800 firearms of different types were stolen in June 2000 in Ambon during clashes between Christians and Muslims.

Inter-ethnic clashes that started on the Maluku Islands in 1999 have caused 5,000 deaths and half a million refugees both within and without the province before a peace deal was brokered in 2002. However, hostilities between the two communities continue to simmer with the occasional flare-up.

Law enforcement nabbed a man called Dahlan, alias Asep, confiscating at least 10,000 live bullets found in his possession. He is suspected of belonging to the commando of eight-nine people that last Sunday assaulted the police mobile brigade post in Loki and left seven people dead, including one civilian.

Ambon police also detained three important witnesses—Libit, Anggato and Rinto—who operated the speedboats that transported the attackers to the place of the attack.

According to police investigators, the members of the commando are the same who in the last few months have been carrying out a terror campaign in Ambon and its surrounding region.

They are the likely suspects in the February 14 incident that saw gunmen shoot from a speedboat against a bar in the village of Hative Besar, Baguala subdistrict, Ambon.

"We are still investigating whether the cases are related," said Police Chief General Dai Bachtiar.

A preliminary investigation is reinforcing the view that Sunday's attack is part of a plan designed to undermine peace in Ambon and the Maluku Islands achieved with the Malino accord that ended sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims.

The group's modus operandi is simple, says Bachtiar: "After an ambush against the police checkpoint, the attackers flee as quickly as possible with no apparent destination. The attack's aim is to rouse emotions among local people, to make them believe the situation is one of insecurity and danger".

Early this week, Christian and Muslim religious leaders called on the security forces to raise the alert level because some "extremists" were bent on igniting inter-religious hatred between the two communities.

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