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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Moluccan Muslims set fire to church
Indonesian troops patrol in Ambon
Indonesia is worried a recent peace deal is still fragile
Muslim protesters in Indonesia's Moluccan islands have set fire to a Christian church as tension over a controversial anniversary mounted.

Indonesian security forces fired warning shots to disperse the protesters, who took to the streets after a Christian group raised separatist flags in the city of Ambon.

The security forces also shot down several balloons which had been floated over the city carrying independence banners.

At least two people are reported to have been injured after several explosions were heard.

The violence threatens a fragile peace agreement signed in February to end three years of conflict between the Christian and Muslim communities.

A BBC correspondent says the authorities in Ambon had been bracing for trouble because 25 April marks the anniversary of a failed attempt by a Christian organisation to create an independent republic in the Moluccan islands in 1950.

Authorities had already arrested the main Christian separatist leader, Alex Manuputty. They had extended a night-time curfew, ordered a news blackout and banned all foreigners from visiting the area.

But the separatists, now known as the Maluku Sovereignty Front, went ahead with plans to mark the anniversary by raising flags and banners across the city, as they have done in many previous years.

Mortar bomb

Although the flags were quickly removed by the authorities, angry crowds opposed to the separatist movement soon gathered.

Eyewitnesses report hearing several explosions.

The most serious was caused by a mortar bomb which is reported to have been fired into the Christian sector of the city.

Several buildings are also reported to have been set on fire.

In Jakarta, the top security minister has said authorities in the Moluccan islands should take firm measures to maintain order.

The government knows the peace agreement it recently brokered between the Christian and Muslim communities is very fragile. The more radical sectarian groups did not sign up.

Earlier this month, a powerful bomb exploded in Ambon killing seven people.

See also:

22 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Moluccan separatist charged with treason
05 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia hunts bomb suspects
03 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Bomb blast in the Moluccas
28 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Deadly foes embrace in Ambon
14 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Bomb blasts follow Moluccan peace deal
12 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Moluccan peace deal
26 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Troubled history of the Moluccas
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