Sat, 26 Feb 2000

Three people killed in fresh Maluku violence

AMBON, Maluku (JP): Fresh communal clashes broke out in Central and North Maluku on Friday resulting in the death of at least three people.

Pattimura Military Commander Brig. Gen. Max Tamaela confirmed the incident but claimed that the situation was now calm as security forces immediately stepped in to establish a buffer zone separating the warring groups.

In addition to the three dead, 14 others were injured.

Tamaela said that at about 11 a.m. local time armed mobs attacked Sobati village in South Morotai, North Maluku.

"Two Sobati residents were killed, 12 were injured and one officer suffered an arrow wound," Tamaela told journalists at his office here Friday afternoon.

An hour later, at about noon, a frenzied mob from Hitu village in Leisitu, Central Maluku raided a Kijang van carrying four residents of neighboring Wakal village.

"Angry mobs set fire to the Kijang van and killed one of the passengers while the other three managed to escape," Tamaela said, without identifying the victim.

The incidents are believed to be retaliatory attacks for an attack by locals from Wakal on Hitu villagers a month ago.

Also in Central Maluku, security forces arrested on Friday several people trying to torch a building in downtown Masohi.

"They are now detained at Central Maluku Police Precinct," Tamaela said.

Responding to the recent outburst of sporadic clashes during a period of reconciliation after a year long conflict, Tamaela said "there are certain parties who don't want peace to return in Maluku".

Anonymous flyers provoking the people in North Maluku have been circulating the past few days, he said.

Tamaela also said that half of some 2,500 refugees from Bacan Island have been evacuated to West Seram and Ambon in Maluku province.

"We had difficulty in transporting the others because of shortages in the number of vehicles and ships," Tamaela said.

At least 12 people have died on Bacan Island in North Maluku in the past three-days due to clashes that only subsided on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a raid to secure various illegal weapons in the Suli area, about 25 kilometers east of Ambon, discovered hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Among the items found were ammunition for AK-47 semiautomatic rifles, FN pistols and SS-1 automatic rifles, bombs and bazookas, Tamaela said.

Some 11,000 guns and bombs seized in various raids were dumped into the sea off the Maluku islands on Monday. (49/edt)