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Saturday, 8 January, 2000, 11:50 GMT
Indonesian Muslims urge restraint

Eid Al Fitr Muslim children celebrate the Eid Al Fitr festival in Ambon


By Indonesia correspondent Richard Galpin

A senior Muslim leader in the Moluccan islands, in eastern Indonesia, has called on the public to show restraint to prevent any further outbreaks of fighting between the Christian and Muslim communities in the region.

The call was made as thousands of Muslims celebrated the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting, with the Eid Al Fitr festival.

It had been feared that the festival could spark further violence in the Moluccan islands, where two weeks of religious conflict have left hundreds of people dead.

About 5,000 Muslims attended a special prayer ceremony at the main mosque in Ambon, surrounded by hundreds of soldiers.

The security forces were taking no chances after the recent upsurge in violence, which began in the provincial capital, Ambon, two weeks ago and has since engulfed many other islands in the region.

Muslim activists, some of them armed with swords, also guarded the mosque.

Tensions remain

But so far, the Eid Al Fitr festival has passed off peacefully despite the fear that it could spark yet more violence.

Tensions in Ambon have been lowered by calls from Muslim leaders for people to avoid any actions which could provoke the Christian community.

However, Ambon remains tense with armed troops patrolling the streets and manning checkpoints at several key locations - and the impact of the recent fighting is clearly visible.

Whole sections of the city have been devastated with buildings destroyed by fire and walls pockmarked by bullets.

In the worst-affected areas, the streets are still littered with broken glass, twisted pieces of metal and empty cartridge cases

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See also:
08 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Analysis: What provoked the violence?
07 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Muslim anger over Moluccas
07 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Troubled history of the Moluccas
24 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia's year of living dangerously
01 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
New clashes in Moluccas
03 Jun 99 |  SPECIAL REPORT
Indonesia's religious tensions

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