Thu, 26 Oct 2000

Maluke tense again as 7 killed in violence

AMBON, Maluku (JP): Tension has escalated in several areas in Maluku province over the last two days following renewed violence that left seven people killed and 17 houses burned on Tuesday.

Leader of Kairatu district on Seram island, Bram Udiata, said in his report to the Civil Emergency Post on Tuesday that his village had been attacked and the ensuing battle resulted in the death of five of the attackers, a soldier and a local resident.

Bram said the armed attackers, coming from neighboring Kelapa Dua and Pakarena areas, shelled the village with mortar fire and homemade bombs.

Maluku Police chief Brig. Gen. Firman Gani confirmed the attack on Tuesday, but said security personnel repelled the attackers after a few hours.

Maluku Governor Saleh Latuconsina said order had been restored but deplored the fact that residents were prone to violence.

"The residents should have understood that there were parties (provocateurs) who wished to incite them to anger," the civil emergency leader said.

Latuconcina, Firman and the Pattimura Military Commander Brig. Gen. I Made Yasa went to Jakarta on Tuesday to request troop reinforcements and legal staff to fill vacant judge and prosecutor positions.

Separately Maluku Military chief of staff Col. Agus Suyitno said security personnel arrested 12 armed people aged between 12 and 23 years, all claiming to be members of the Yogyakarta-based Lasykar Jihad (Jihad Force) Ahlussunah Wal Jamaah during a crackdown on armed gangs following an attack on Gunung Nona and Gunung Atas areas in Nusaniwe district in Ambon earlier in the day.

Agus said the incident was initiated by armed gangs from Pohon Mangga area, in Salobar district, also in Ambon.

From the suspects, security personnel confiscated ammunition and standard military grenade launchers, 36 homemade weapons, a bomb, four bulletproof vests, 11 pairs of boots, 63 bullets, and dozens of toxic arrows and sharp weapons.

Later on Wednesday, thousands of Muslim residents in Waihaong area, Sirimau district rallied in front of the Ambon Military Command, protesting alleged abuse of the 12 suspects during questioning.

Agus denied the allegations, saying the suspects were safe and sound and offered medical checks to prove his words. (49/lup)