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Richard Galpin in Jakarta
"There are orders to shoot rioters on site"
 real 28k

Thursday, 20 January, 2000, 13:51 GMT
Thousands flee Lombok

Muslim banners used to ward off rampaging gangs

Thousands of people have been fleeing religious and ethnic violence on the Indonesian island of Lombok.

Fragile Archipelago
The situation is currently reported to be calmer, but members of Christian and Chinese minority communities have been evacuated under military escort.

Large numbers of Indonesian troops and police are patrolling the streets of the island's capital, Mataram.

Sporadic clashes were reported on Wednesday night, despite police threats to shoot rioters on sight after more than three days of violence.

Muslim gangs torched and looted premises and homes owned by Christians, Hindus and ethnic Chinese. They are reported to have lists of Christian and Chinese-owned properties which they are methodically destroying.

Christian and Hindu refugees shelter at a military base

Hundreds of people are sheltering in police and army compounds. Others are being taken in armed convoys to the port for evacuation to nearby Bali.

The trouble was said to have died down to an uneasy lull on Thursday.

But a BBC correspondent in Lombok, Jonathan Head says the home-made barricades across many streets betray the frayed nerves of the population.

Five dead

The island's many beach resorts are now deserted. The last of the tourists were leaving on Thursday.

Rioter burned goods from a Christian Chinese-owned shop

The violence started on Monday and continued unchecked for three days. Police officials are reported to have said that five people have died in the violence.

The rioting was sparked by continuing violence between Muslims and Christians in the Moluccan islands.

The majority Islamic population on Lombok is said to be extremely angry about the perceived failure of the government to defend their fellow Muslims.

More money

In a move to combat violence elsewhere in Indonesia, Vice-President, Megawati Sukarnoputri has announced plans to substantially increase the amount of money allocated by the government to some of the country's most volatile regions.

A scavenger picks through the gutted building

These include the provinces of Aceh and Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya, where separatist rebellions are threatening the territorial integrity of the country.

All the provinces are rich in natural resources, but have long complained that they have not benefited.

No coup

In a related development, senior military commanders have attempted to reassure President Abdurrahman Wahid that they are not planning a coup.

Armed forces commander, Admiral Widodo Adisucipto, said the rumoured disloyalty of the military was nonsense. He said Indonesian soldiers swear oaths that made a coup impossible.

Last week, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, warned the Indonesian military not to try to overthrow the government.

President Wahid is under pressure to end the sectarian and separatist violence sweeping the archipelago.

In an interview with Thursday's Financial Times, President Wahid said the religious clashes on the Moluccan and Lombok islands were attempts to distract attention from economic reforms that were unpopular with groups that he referred to as dark forces.

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See also:
20 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Cash for Indonesian trouble spots
10 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Tough times for Indonesia's military
17 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Riots hit Indonesian resort
08 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Analysis: What provoked Moluccas violence?
19 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Arms to Indonesia policy defended
07 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Troubled history of the Moluccas
17 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Wahid warns military against coup
18 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Gangs roam Indonesian resort

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