Fri, 09 Aug 2002

N. Maluku violence leaves one dead

Oktovianus Pinontoan, The Jakarta Post, Ambon

Two bomb explosions in North Maluku's Tobelo district and fresh clashes between two villages on Wednesday left one dead and several houses burned, military reports said.

A mob from Gorua village attacked the neighboring Wari village following the blasts, marking the first violent reaction to a string of bomb explosion this year.

Marine personnel deployed in the area tried but failed to prevent a group of Gorua locals armed with handmade weapons storming Wari village, said Maluku military command spokesman Maj. Herry Suhardi.

Gorua villagers burned down 13 houses and two offices, and only left the scene after soldiers started to take action.

Sabri Islam, whose hails neither from Gorua or Wari but from the village of Samsuge, died in the incident. The cause of his death or the party which killed him has not been established.

A Wari local, Dance Duan, 35, was shot in the right foot.

"The perpetrators are being hunted down ... the situation had returned to normal by 2 p.m.," Herry said.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the Gorua villagers to initiate the attack.

Head of a human rights body in Tobelo, Nofino Lobiua, said in a statement that the clash ensued after a car passing Gorua was stoned by an unidentified group.

At about the same time a bomb explosion and a series of gun shots were heard in the area between the villages.

Meanwhile in Tobelo, the Marines were holding a handover ceremony from Marine Task Force IV to Marine Task Force V.

Maluku has been the scene of communal fighting between Christians and Muslims since 1999. Although Indonesia is a majority Muslim country, Muslims only make up about half the population in Maluku.

Life in the conflict-torn province has been gradually returning to normal after both sides signed a government-brokered peace accord last February.

A series of bomb explosions since have threatened to shatter the fragile peace accord.