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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 09:47 GMT
Moluccas tense after riots
Troops are patrolling the streets of the Indonesian city of Ambon, on the Moluccan Islands, following violent protests by Christian residents.

The riots were triggered by the death of at least seven people in an explosion on a boat carrying mainly Christian passengers.


People are still scared

Martin Luther Jahri, local government spokesman
It is unclear what caused the initial blast, but many in the Christian community have blamed Muslims for the incident.

Clashes between the two communities on the Moluccas - also known as the Spice Islands - have caused thousands of deaths in the last three years.

Ambon city remained on alert on Wednesday following clashes the previous day when demonstrators attacked the local governor's residence, setting fire to cars and to another public building.

"People are still scared," said Martin Luther Jahri, a spokesman for the local government. "Hundreds of police and soldiers are increasing their patrols."

Religious anger

There were no immediate reports of new violence in the city, 2,500 kilometres (1,600 miles) north-east of the capital Jakarta.

Tuesday's riots were provoked by rumours that Muslim extremists had planted a bomb on the boat.

Indonesian Muslim praying in a mosque
Indonesia's population is predominantly Muslim
Navy officers speculated that the explosion could have been caused by an electrical short-circuit igniting the fuel tank.

In recent weeks there has also been religious violence on Indonesia's Sulawesi island, where rival Christian and Muslim gangs have been in conflict since 1999.

At least eight people have died in fresh fighting in the last two weeks.

Officials said the island was calm on Wednesday after the arrival last week of about 2,000 extra police. More troops are expected to arrive in the next few days.

A police spokesman was quoted by The Jakarta Post newspaper as saying security forces would raid the camps of armed militias and confiscate their weapons. He said any outsiders found in the area would be deported.

Thousands of members of the Islamic organisation, Laskar Jihad, have recently arrived in Sulawesi.

The group has been blamed for conducting a violent campaign against the Christian community in the Moluccas.

See also:

05 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Minister urges firm action in Sulawesi
04 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Afghan fighters 'seen' in Sulawesi
04 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Sulawesi braced for more violence
03 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
More bloodshed feared in Sulawesi
23 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jaya to get more autonomy
04 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Sulawesi violence claims 18 lives
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Who are the Laskar Jihad?
26 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Troubled history of the Moluccas
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