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Tuesday, April 20, 1999 Published at 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Violence flares in Indonesia

The church attack followed a TV report of a mosque blast

There has been a fresh outbreak of religious violence in Indonesia following Monday's explosion at the main mosque in the capital, Jakarta.

Patricia Noonan: Police fired dozens of warning shots at the mob
A crowd of more than 1,000 set fire to Catholic Church buildings in the city of Ujung Pandang in South Sulawesi, some 1,400 km (870 miles) east of Jakarta.

The attack came after local television broadcast details of the bomb blast at Jakarta's Istiqlal Mosque, which injured at least eight people and damaged several rooms.

Witnesses say the crowd attacked a church complex housing a Christian school on Monday evening throwing petrol bombs.

The church in the same complex was burnt down during attacks there earlier this year.

Dozens of Indonesian police fired warning shots into the air to try to disperse the mob. Two people are reported to have been wounded. Four people were arrested.

Appeal for calm

Government officials and religious leaders have appealed for calm following the Istiqlal blast and urged people not to fall prey to incitements to violence.

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A spokesman for the Mosque said the attack was an attempt by an unknown group to divide Indonesia's religious communities.

Indonesia's Church said it "condemns whoever is responsible for the explosion".

"It was an irresponsible act whether it had a criminal or political motive," the church said in a statement.

Indonesian President BJ Habibie condemned the attack as "an attempt to create religious and ethnic conflict".

Police on standby

In central Jakarta, police are on standby at the main cathedral close to the Istiqlal Mosque, and troops are guarding at least one other church, witnesses said.

The mosque is the largest in South-East Asia and lies less than a kilometre from Indonesia's presidential palace.

It is visited by thousands of worshippers and tourists every day.

More than 90% of Indonesia's 200m people are Muslims.

In recent months several hundred people have died in escalating violence between members of the Muslim majority and Christian minority in several parts of Indonesia.

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