Tue, 09 Mar 1999

Two men attacked by mob in renewed Ambon violence

JAKARTA (JP): Two men were attacked by a mob in renewed violence in the riot-torn Maluku capital of Ambon on Monday.

There was confusion on the status of the victims. Antara reported the two died on the way to hospital but hospital sources told The Jakarta Post they were critically wounded and receiving treatment.

The agency said Maj. Gen. Suaidy Marasabessy, head of a special military task force sent to Ambon on Sunday to restore order, confirmed the deaths on Monday.

"I have checked the latest development and two people have been confirmed killed," Suaidy, who is also Wirabuana Regional Military Commander, was quoted as saying before attending a closed meeting with Maluku Governor Saleh Latuconsina and Trikora Regional Military Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Sembiring.

The men were identified as Alfaris Latumeten, 26, and Hans Timisela. They were attacked in the city's Pohon Mangga area at about 7:10 a.m.

A staff member on the emergency ward of Ambon General Hospital told the Post by phone on Monday that the men were being treated at the hospital and were in serious condition from stab and slash wounds.

"They were admitted to the hospital this morning and taken directly to the operating room. They are now still in critical condition but they are not dead," Angel told the Post.

The news agency quoted witnesses as saying that the two were riding a motorcycle when they were stopped and attacked by a group of people armed with machetes, arrows and spears in Pohon Mangga in Air Salobar village.

The agency reported the two previously stopped at the nearby Taman Makmur area and asked a number of security personnel in the area whether it was safe to pass through Pohon Mangga.

It said the attack followed clashes between residents of Pohon Mangga and Benteng Atas areas on Sunday night.

At least seven houses in Benteng were set on fire by Molotov cocktails and more than a dozen people were injured after security personnel opened fire on mobs on Sunday and early Monday, the news agency said. At least two were reportedly killed over the weekend.

Warning shots were also heard on early Monday in the Patty shopping center and Batu Gantung area, Antara said.

At least four houses in Batu Gantung were also set on fire on Monday.

Blasts were also reported near a police dormitory in Perigi Lima where security personnel fired several warning shots to disperse crowds.

The agency reported that at least two utility vehicles were also set on fire in Batugajah and Passo on Monday.

Armed Forces (ABRI) chief Gen. Wiranto sent 19 military officers, who were either born in Maluku or indigenous, to the riot-torn city on Sunday in a bid to halt weeks of clashes with religious overtones.

Authorities said more than 170 people have died and 400 others have been injured since Muslim-Christian clashes erupted in the province in mid-January.

They also said about 3,575 houses were set on fire in the weeks of violence which have caused more Rp 500 billion in material losses.

Thousands have taken refuge in mosques, churches, military installations and other government buildings in Ambon. Thousands more have fled the city by ship for their hometowns in Southeast Sulawesi and South Sulawesi.

In the South Sulawesi capital of Ujungpandang, Abdul Halim, a student representative from Pattimura University in Ambon, said on Monday about 2,500 students from the university requested transfers to universities in South Sulawesi and Southeast Sulawesi due to the unrest.

The violence was sparked by a dispute between a Muslim migrant and a local Christian driver of a public minibus on Jan. 19. (byg/27)