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The BBC's Richard Galpin
''Church leaders say the violence is tantamount to genocide''
 real 28k

Tuesday, 28 December, 1999, 09:47 GMT
Church calls for Ambon peacekeepers

Smoke above Ambon city Dozens of buildings have been burned down in Ambon


Church leaders in Indonesia have called for international peacekeepers to be sent to the Moluccan islands if security forces cannot control the escalating religious violence.

More than 60 people have been killed and scores injured in religious clashes between Christians and Muslims in the region in less than a week.



I saw troops fire many times into the crowds
Aid worker Oren Murphy
The Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) said what was happening in the islands was tantamount to genocide.

In the provincial capital Ambon, more than 40 people have been killed and up to 100 injured since clashes began on Sunday.

The security forces say they are bringing the situation under control, but they have been blamed for many of the injuries after opening fire during the clashes.

Both Muslims and Christians have accused the Indonesian military of backing the other side.

Sporadic explosions could still be heard in Ambon on Tuesday.


Ambon clashes Sectarian clashes have claimed over 700 lives this year
Eyewitnesses say they have seen decapitated bodies being dragged through the streets of the city.

And they say armed gangs from the rival communities have been sniping at each other with home-made guns for a third day.

The Indonesian Communion of Churches said the army and police must be held accountable for the conflict.

It added that if the security forces could not restore peace they should be withdrawn and "replaced with international peacekeepers".

Bombs

The latest violence was sparked on Sunday by reports that a 14-year-old Muslim boy had been run over by a vehicle driven by a Christian.

Clashes broke out in Trikora Square, in the centre of the port city, between rival factions using guns, slingshots and home-made bombs.

Indonesian marines tried to separate the warring factions using barbed wire roadblocks but the gangs bypassed the barriers.

A hospital official said at least 46 people had been killed.

Buildings burned

A mosque in the city and the Protestant Silo Church, the largest in the city, were both burned in the attack. Dozens of other buildings have also been torched.

Our Jakarta correspondent Richard Galpin says the area is looking increasingly like a war zone.

Earlier this month, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid and Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri visited the Moluccan Islands to appeal for religious tolerance.

More than 700 people have died in religious violence in the region since last January.

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See also:
27 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Religious violence erupts in Ambon
15 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Ambon refugee crisis fears
14 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
'Three killed' in Moluccan violence
12 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Wahid tells Ambon to stop fighting
05 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Sectarian clashes erupt in Indonesia
21 Mar 99 |  SPECIAL REPORT
Ambon's troubled history
03 Apr 99 |  Asia-Pacific
New strife in Moluccas
27 Jul 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Ambon violence flares again

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