Thu, 02 Oct 2003

One killed and houses burned in tribal riot

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara

At least one person has been killed and two others wounded during a tribal clash between residents from two villages in Kupang regency, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), police and officials said on Wednesday.

Dozens of houses were also looted during the riot that broke out on Tuesday night between Naputitu tribespeople, from Wadumaddi village in Mehara subdistrict and their Nataga rivals from Ledeana village in West Sabu subdistrict.

The clash was likely triggered by a long-standing borderline dispute between residents of the two villages.

The West Sabu police said that based on the report of a witness, only one person was killed at the scene.

"From the Nataga tribe, one died and two houses were set on fire, while from the Naputitu side, two men sustained gunshot wounds," local police officer First Brig. Kim Sula said.

He said police and military personnel had been deployed to the violence-torn area to prevent the situation from worsening and to enforce security.

Yustina Kana Nyola, a nurse at the Seba community health center (Puskesmas), identified the dead as Riwu Ratu, 51, from Ledeana village.

She described the death as "savage" and "inhuman", as the victim had suffered injuries all over his body.

Ratu's throat was slit and his skull was fractured, Yustina explained.

She said that the victim's body had been missing an arm, his heart and nose had been cut out, he had been stabbed in the chest and his legs were seriously wounded.

The fighting had erupted despite the Kupang regency administration's efforts to solve the borderline dispute through talks between the two tribes. The talks had failed to initiate a solution.

However, Sabu Barat subdistrict head Wempy Imanuel Riwu claimed the violent incident had nothing to do with the land dispute.

He said at least eight people had been arrested as suspects and were being held at the local police office.

Riwu claimed that the situation at the scene had generally been under control.