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Saturday, 8 July, 2000, 06:50 GMT 07:50 UK
Village slaughter in the Moluccas
Muslim militants
Muslim fighters are waging a 'holy war' in the Moluccas
At least 22 people have been killed in attacks on a mainly Christian village in the Moluccan Islands, in eastern Indonesia.

Hundreds of Muslim fighters armed with mortars, grenades and rifles are reported to have carried out the raids on Waai village, near the Moluccan capital Ambon.

The well-co-ordinated assault, which came from three directions, started on Thursday, and was renewed on Friday night.

Refugees from Halmahera
Thousands have fled the religious fighting

A spokesman for the Christian community has accused the Indonesian army of doing nothing to halt the violence.

Almost 60 people were wounded in the attack, while hundreds of homes, a church and other buildings were burnt down.

Several thousand villagers fled into the surrounding jungle.

It was the most serious outbreak of violence since the authorities imposed a state of emergency across the Moluccan islands at the end of last month.

A local journalist said Waai, some 28km (18 miles) from Ambon, had been home to up to 5,000 people.

"The situation in Waai is currently very quiet. Everyone seems to have left the village," he said.

No military presence

" I haven't even seen any police or military there," he added.

About 40 people have been killed in clashes between Christians and Muslims in and around Ambon during the past week.

Moluccas Governor Saleh Latuconsina has said he will send his deputy to Jakarta to brief President Wahid about the upsurge in violence.

"The reality in the field is that the clashes have continued, even with the civil emergency," the governor said.

The civil emergency, one level below martial law, allows security forces to detain suspects and impose a curfew.

In an attempt to quell the latest violence, Indonesia has sent two more battalions, comprising up to 400 soldiers each, to the Moluccas.

The fresh batch of soldiers, who left by ship on Wednesday, will join 19 battalions already there.

But the security forces have appeared powerless to stop the attacks, and have regularly been accused of taking sides.

Plea to United Nations

Three Indonesian Christian leaders have gone to Geneva to plead for United Nations help.

One of the three, Joseph Pattiasina, told the BBC that the Indonesian authorities were no longer able to curb violence on the island of Ambon.

He said that during Friday's attack, the army made no attempt to intervene.

Mr Pattiasina said if no action was taken, there would soon be no Christians on Ambon.

The Indonesian government, for its part, has always said it opposes any kind of foreign interference.

But it has said it would welcome humanitarian aid for the tens of thousands of victims of the conflict.

Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim nation, with about 90% of its population of more than 200 million people following Islam.

The population of the Moluccas is almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims.

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See also:

07 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Moluccan militants: God on our side
29 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Moluccan islanders' desperate flight
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Massacre in the Moluccas
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