Fri, 22 Sep 2000

Two die as clash breaks out in Maluku's Saparua island

AMBON, Maluku (JP): A community clash broke out in Saparua island, Maluku, on Thursday, leaving two people dead and four others injured.

At least 40 houses in the predominantly Christian Siri Sori Kristen village were burned down during the clash by residents of the predominantly Muslim neighboring village of Siri Sori Islam.

Governor Saleh Latuconsina confirmed the clash and said that reinforcements would be sent in.

Thursday's incident followed a series of attacks in the past few days between residents of Ulath village and Siri Sori Islam. Siri Sori Islam village is situated between Ulath village to its left and Siri Sori Kristen village to its right.

Earlier, on Wednesday, a clash claimed the lives of four residents and injured others.

Two companies, or about 200 troops, of the National Police's Mobile Brigade (Brimob) were deployed to the disputed area and managed to restore security in the area.

In a separate development, a joint police-military battalion arrested three Maluku Police officers on Wednesday for their alleged participation in a shooting incident involving the KM Anda II passenger ship in the waters off Dalam Bay the day before.

Maluku Police chief Brig. Gen. Firman Gani said the police would take stern measures against the three if they were proven guilty.

"It's a fatal violation for a security officer to get involved in a murder or a theft case, or for his or her failure to ensure public safety," he said.

Firman, however, refused to name the three officers.

The latest data on the victims of the Tuesday's incident reveal that three passengers died and 15 others were injured.

Firman said the police would meticulously investigate their (the officers') roles in the shootings and initially question them as witnesses.

"If there are indications that the three were involved, we will name them as suspects," he said.

"In our preliminary questioning, the three had strong alibis indicating they weren't involved in the shootings," he added.

The arrest triggered a mass protest in Batumerah, Ambon, on Wednesday, demanding that the three be released immediately, despite prior agreement among the residents that the matter be resolved at the city's Civil Emergency Post.

One soldier was reportedly injured in the protest.

Separately, the Sea Security Task Force of the Eastern Indonesian Navy Fleet Commodore Djoko Sumarjono called on the public on Wednesday to immediately inform the security authorities should they have any information concerning Tuesday's attack.

He said the public's active participation was needed to help the authorities to take stern action against the assailants.

"We'll gun down the speedboats they use in the attacks," he said.

Djoko was responding to the increasing public demand that the authorities arrest the perpetrators and seize the speedboats to prevent them from operating in the area again.

"We will put all of our efforts into securing the Ambon waters," he added. (49/lup)