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Wednesday, March 3, 1999 Published at 08:22 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Ambon police chief sacked

Homes and lives have been destroyed across the province

Jonathan Head: "Some are even calling for the government to resign"
The head of police in the troubled Indonesian Maluku islands has been sacked, the Indonesian armed forces chief General Wiranto has announced.

He said the decision had been taken for "operational reasons."

[ image: Thousands have been fleeing to other provinces]
Thousands have been fleeing to other provinces
Since January more than 150 people have been killed and thousands injured in inter-religious rioting between Christian and Muslim gangs on the islands.

It is the worst sectarian violence to hit Indonesia in more than 15 years.

Tens of thousands of islanders have been trying to leave the islands to escape the trouble.

General Wiranto also announced that 1,000 extra troops would be sent to the main island of Ambon which has been worst hit by the violence.

'Stern action'

He said the soldiers were under orders to "take extremely stern action against anybody or any group who deliberately triggered the rioting in Ambon."

[ image: Jakarta students demand more protection for Muslims]
Jakarta students demand more protection for Muslims
"The soldiers have been instructed to shoot to paralyse the rioters but not to kill them," he added.

The announcement came as around 2,000 Muslim students demonstrated in the capital, Jakarta, against what they called ethnic cleansing by Christians and the military on the island of Ambon.

The demonstrators denounced the shooting by troops of two Muslims outside a mosque in Ambon city on Monday.

Many of the protesters chanted "jihad" and accused the soliders of supporting Christian mobs.

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