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The BBC's Richard Galpin
"The city of Ambon has never been so clearly divided along religious lines"
 real 28k

Sunday, 9 January, 2000, 12:37 GMT
Ambon's divided camps ready to fight

Silo church Ambon Soldiers guard Ambon's Silo Church, which was gutted during last week's violence


By Richard Galpin in Jakarta

The city of Ambon has never been so clearly divided along religious lines as it is today.

Although it has been generally peaceful throughout the Moluccan Islands during the Eid al-Fitr celebrations marking the end of Ramadan, the area remains extremely tense.

The Christian and Muslim districts may only be a few metres apart in this small provincial capital but they are now distinct zones and the communities living in them are at war with each other.


Girl and ruined building The violence has caused much material damage in Ambon

People from both sides say they will be killed if they pass into the others' territory.

Standing between them in no-man's land are hundreds of heavily-armed troops who are under orders to impose what is martial law in all but name.

And on either side of the divide opinions are hardening after this past year of religious conflict.

Gunmen

It is easy to find experienced gunmen among both the Christian and Muslim communities who are prepared to fight to the end.


Soldiers in car Soldiers are on the streets, keeping the peace between the two communities

One Christian man told the BBC that the army should be withdrawn so the final and decisive battle can begin.

Among the Muslims the conflict is now being described as a jihad or holy war.

There are even young boys being drafted in to fight. One who is just 10 years old described how he had killed someone in a clash last July.

Blame

Religious leaders on both sides simply blame each other for the outbreaks of violence which have been getting steadily worse since the fighting first erupted last January.

And they say there are currently no attempts underway to find a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

All this makes a mockery of government statements from the Indonesian capital Jakarta that it is up to the people themselves in the Moluccan Islands to restore peace.

The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that far more government intervention is now required.

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See also:
09 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Megawati defends record on Moluccas
08 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Analysis: What provoked Moluccas violence?
07 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Troubled history of the Moluccas
24 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia's year of living dangerously
08 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesian Muslims urge restraint
03 Jun 99 |  SPECIAL REPORT
Indonesia's religious tensions

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