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Sunday, 28 April, 2002, 07:15 GMT 08:15 UK
Muslim mob attacks Indonesia Christians
Ambon street
Ambon has seen three years of violence
At least 12 people have been killed by a Muslim mob which attacked a Christian village in the Moluccan islands in eastern Indonesia.

The violence then spread to the regional capital, Ambon city, where a bomb went off, and a centre for Christian and Muslim children and one of the city's main churches were set on fire.

It is the most serious outbreak of violence in the Moluccas since a peace deal was signed by Christian and Muslim leaders in February 2002.

The deal was intended to put an end to three years of sectarian violence in which more than 6,000 people have died.

Homes set alight

The violence began early on Sunday in the village of Soya.

"They attacked the village by using home-made bombs and set fire to some of the houses,"a local journalist said.

There are reports that some 30 homes and a church were set on fire.

Six people are reported to have been stabbed to death, and a further six are said to have died in the fires.

Christian sources say the Soya attack was carried out by a Muslim mob armed with machetes, knives and bombs.

Two of the attackers also died in the fighting.

Many of the villagers, particularly the women and children, have now fled the area.

Ambon police chief Brigadier-General Sunarko Danu Artanto confirmed the attack, but gave no further details.

Independence

The violence comes after the Christian separatist South Moluccas Republic (RMS) group raised flags in Ambon on Thursday, the 52nd anniversary of a failed independence bid.

Indonesian troops patrolling Ambon
Troops patrolling Ambon before the peace deal
Angry Muslim crowds took to the streets in response, and the leader of the extremist Islamic organisation, Laskar Jihad, called on all Muslims in the Moluccan islands to launch a renewed war against the Christian community.

The group's commander, Jafar Umar Thalib, told thousands attending a rally after Friday prayers that the peace agreement should be ignored.

BBC Jakarta correspondent Richard Galpin says the critical issue now is whether the authorities can prevent the violence from spreading - which would mean clamping down on the activities of Laskar Jihad, which so far the government has been afraid to do.

Muslims make up 85% of Indonesia's 210 million people, but in the Moluccas half the population is Christian.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Richard Galpin
"The Muslim mob have killed up to 12 people"


See also:

26 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Moluccas brace for more trouble
25 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Moluccan Muslims set fire to church
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
12 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Moluccan peace deal
26 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Troubled history of the Moluccas
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