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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 April, 2004, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
UN evacuates staff from Ambon
By Rachel Harvey
BBC correspondent in Jakarta

The United Nations has evacuated its staff from the Indonesian island of Ambon amid continuing sectarian violence.

Muslim militant holding a sword
Muslim and Christian gangs have been fighting since Sunday

Gunfire and explosions have been heard throughout the city and more buildings have been set on fire.

At least 32 people have been killed and more than 100 injured since the latest violence started on Sunday.

Clashes broke out after a small predominantly Christian separatist group staged a rally in the city.

Sporadic gunfire has continued for a fourth successive day in Ambon city and the casualty list is growing.

Barricades separating Muslim and Christian areas are making it difficult to get the injured to hospital for treatment.

Despite the presence of more than 1,000 extra police and soldiers drafted in to help quell the unrest, more buildings have been set on fire including a church.

Ambon was once a model for reconciliation in the region, but hopes of a more peaceful future now lie in tatters.

I was in Ambon just a month ago to visit a newly open school where Christian and Muslim teenagers were studying together. The school was burned down on Monday.

Conflict between Christians and Muslims began in 1999
More than 5,000 people killed in two years of fighting
Peace deal signed in 2002, but sporadic violence still occurs
Muslims say Christians have better jobs
Christians threatened by influx of Muslims since the 1970s

"We're back to square one," the headmaster told me, "we can't continue under these conditions."

This is the worst violence in the region since a peace deal was signed in 2002, ending three years of bitter fighting which left more than 5,000 people dead.

The conflict then was exacerbated by the presence of Muslim militants from other parts of Indonesia.

Hardline Muslim leaders in Jakarta are once again threatening to send their own fighters to Ambon if, as they put it, the security forces fail to deal with the situation.

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