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The BBC's Jonathan Head
"The government seems paralysed in the face of such religious fanaticism"
 real 28k

Yvn Hildebrand of Medecins Sans Frontieres, Jakarta
"The situation has seriously deteriorated in the past week"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Calls for Moluccas aid effort
Fighting in Moluccas street
Thousands have already fled their homes under fire
International aid agencies have appealed to the Indonesian authorities to open humanitarian corridors to the Moluccan Islands.

The situation is out of control

Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid
They say the move is urgently needed to get relief supplies to the thousands of people displaced by months of sectarian fighting.

The aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontiers said hundreds had been wounded in recent fighting and hospitals would run out of basic supplies including blood "within days".

Soldiers on patrol
The army says many of its soldiers have become "emotionally involved"

Up to 30,000 displaced people are thought to be living in makeshift camps in the main city of Ambon, with many more living rough in the countryside.

The United States has called on the government in Jakarta to take stronger action to stop the violence between Christians and Muslims.

Washington has accused the Indonesian security forces of being unable or unwilling to control the fighting, which has left more than 160 people dead in the past week alone.

Troops replaced

Earlier Indonesian officials announced they were replacing most of their troops in the Moluccas because they have become "emotionally involved" in the escalating conflict.

Moluccas map

Military spokesman Vice Air Marshall Graito Usodo said a total of around 1,400 soldiers would be replaced.

BBC South-East Asia Correspondent Jonathan Head says that finding troops within the ranks of Indonesia's demoralised armed forces who can remain neutral in the emotionally charged atmosphere on the islands won't be easy.

The new military commander in the Moluccas has ordered troops who have deserted their units to return to barracks by the end of the month.

Destroyed shops
Hundreds of homes and businesses have been destroyed
The announcement follows repeated accusations that both the army and police have taken sides in the fighting.

And in Jakarta President Abdurrahman Wahid has announced that he is assuming ultimate control for security in the Moluccas.

"The situation is out of control," he told reporters on Tuesday after meeting key ministers and formally imposing the state of emergency.

Civil emergency

Emergency powers
to search houses
to detain suspects
to impose curfews
On Monday the government declared a civil emergency, but local residents say fighting has continued with explosions and gunfire echoing across Ambon city.

One local man told the BBC his wife and children had already gone into the hills behind the because constant sniper fire had made it too dangerous even to stay inside his house.

The Indonesian Government says the violence has been stoked by outsiders, intent on creating further instability in a country already racked by more than two years of political turmoil.

Indonesian Foreign Affairs spokesman Sulaiman Abdulmanan said Jakarta would not agree to UN political or military intervention, but would accept humanitarian assistance.

The clashes have worsened since May this year when armed militants of the extremist Lashkar Jihad Muslim group began arriving in the islands.

Last week, the government banned outsiders from entering the region in an effort to halt the flow of weapons and other supplies to the fighters.

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See also:

25 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Civil war looms in Moluccas
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Massacre in the Moluccas
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Who are the Lashkar Jihad?
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Military 'impotent' on Moluccas violence
26 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Moluccan violence spreads north
10 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fears grow over Moluccas jihad
Ambon's troubled history
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