05/16/2005, 00.00
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Five policemen and a civilian killed in Maluku

Ambon (AsiaNews) – More violence on troubled Maluku (Moluccas) Islands. Five policemen and a civilian were killed today when a police post in the village of Loki on Seram, the largest of the Maluku Islands, was attacked by unidentified gunmen.

Maluku police spokesman Major Hendro Praesetyo said the five officers belonged to the Mobile Brigade paramilitary unit.

According to a preliminary investigation, the attack was carried out by six individuals but no motive has yet been found.

The well-trained gunmen started to shoot as soon as they arrived at the police post. Police sources in Ambon said that the shoot-out lasted more than an hour.

The civilian victim was probably one of the gunmen.

Investigators are speculating that he was probably wounded and eventually liquidated by his comrades to prevent him from talking.

"We don't know the motive yet," said Prasetyo. The civilian victim did not have any papers to enable police to identify him and know to which community he belonged.

The Maluku Islands are north-east of Jakarta. Up to 5,000 people have died in sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians in the province between 1999 and 2001; another 500,000 have become refugees.

A truce between the two communities ended the bloodshed in 2002, but there have been sporadic bombings and shootings, mostly targeting civilians.  (MH)

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