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The BBC's Jonathan Head
"The government seems paralysed in the face of such religious fanaticism"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 04:28 GMT 05:28 UK
Indonesia loses faith in Moluccas troops
Indonesian soldiers
Troops have taken sides, say eyewitnesses
Most of Indonesia's troops in the Molucca Islands are to be replaced because they have become "emotionally involved" in the escalating sectarian conflict, the military says.

The plan was announced as a state of emergency came into effect on the islands, where more than 2,500 Christians and Muslims have been killed in the past 18 months.

Emergency powers
to search houses
to detain suspects
to impose curfews
Military spokesman Vice Air Marshall Graito Usodo said around 1,400 soldiers would be changed in the main city of Ambon.

"The... soldiers have been there too long. They may have become involved emotionally," he told Reuters news agency.

There have been repeated accusations that both the army and police have taken sides in the fighting.

Troop rotation has been tried before, but not successfully, says BBC south-east Asia correspondent Jonathan Head.

Moluccas map
President Abdurrahman Wahid said on Tuesday he had assumed ultimate control for security in the Moluccas, where more than 160 people have been killed in the past week.

"The situation is out of control," he told reporters after meeting key ministers and formally imposing the state of emergency.

In the latest clashes in Ambon, seven people were killed, and a mosque and dozens of houses were burned on Monday, witnesses said.

US concern

The United States on Monday urged the Indonesian Government to stop the violence, saying the security forces were either unable or unwilling to act.

The State Department also said the Jakarta government should stop outside groups travelling to the islands to take part in the fighting and exacerbate the tensions.

Demonstrators in Jakarta
Jakarta protesters call on the US to intervene
The Indonesian Governments say the violence has been stoked by outsiders, intent on creating further instability in a country already racked by more than two years of political turmoil.

Indonesian Foreign Affairs spokesman Sulaiman Abdulmanan said Jakarta would not agree to UN political or military intervention, but would accept humanitarian assistance .

"It's an internal problem. We don't want to see any foreign countries interfering, " he said.

Last week, the government banned outsiders from entering the region.

The clashes have worsened since May this year when armed militants of the extremist Lashkar Jihad Muslim group began arriving in the islands.

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See also:

25 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Civil war looms in Moluccas
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Massacre in the Moluccas
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Who are the Lashkar Jihad?
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Military 'impotent' on Moluccas violence
26 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Moluccan violence spreads north
10 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fears grow over Moluccas jihad
Ambon's troubled history
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