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Tuesday, 25 July, 2000, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Moluccas militants face expulsion
Laskar Jihad
The militants say they are sending more men
Indonesia's military says it is preparing to deport up to 1,900 Muslim militants from the Moluccan islands where religious fighting has claimed more than 3,000 lives.

But the militants have said they are getting ready to send another 1,300 fighters to the islands.

And they warned they would create chaos elsewhere in Indonesia if the military ejected its members already deployed in the Moluccas.


Rival Muslim and Christian gangs have been fighting each other for more than 18 months in the region, also known as the Spice Islands.

But the violence has escalated in recent months with the arrival of fighters from the Laskar Jihad group, who have been trained at the group's base in Java.

Deputy military spokesman Brigadier General Suhartono Suratman said on Tuesday that the navy and commercial ships would take the militants back to Java, about 2,300km (1,440 miles) away.

In Ambon, Governor Saleh Latuconsina said troops would soon start rounding up "unwanted outsiders".

Moluccan military chief Brigadier General I Made Yasa said about 1,900 militia members would be deported.

Battalions

But the Laskar Jihad's headquarters in Yogyakarta, on Java, said it planned to send another 1,300 members to the region.

It said about 3,000 militiamen were already in the islands.

Gunman, Moluccas
Violence has raged for 18 months
"God willing, we will send another two battalions, or about 1,300 members, next month," said Ayib Syafruddin, chairman of the Ahlussunnah Waljamaah Communication Forum, which sponsors the Laskar Jihad group.

Mr Syarifuddin said the reinforcements did not intend to go to war with local Christians.

He said they were being sent to the Moluccas to spread the word of Islam and assist the Muslims in religious and social activities.

Mr Syarifuddin also warned the Laskar Jihad would resist any attempt to deport its members from the region.

But Jakarta Defence Minister Yuwono Sudarsono promised that the police and armed forces would deal sternly with the militants if they carried out threats to cause trouble in other parts of Indonesia.

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See also:

17 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Army accused over Moluccas conflict
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Massacre in the Moluccas
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