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Indonesia Probes Massacre

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian police are investigating allegations 200 Muslims have 
been massacred in a village in the remote spice
islands, as Christians and Muslims continued fighting on Tuesday.
A policeman on Ternate island, in the northern spice islands, told Reuters almost 200 
people had died on neighboring Halmahera
island already this week despite the arrival of thousands of extra soldiers in the 

``Clashes happen on a daily basis,'' he said. ``Nearly 200 people have been killed in 
new violence in Halmahera this week.''

He said dozens more had died on Ternate.
``It's still tense out there, but Ternate is quiet.''

The official Antara news agency said police were investigating allegations 200 Muslims 
were massacred in the Halmahera village of
Togolua on December 27. It gave no details.

At least 8,000 extra soldiers had been rushed to the northern part of the spice 
islands, or Moluccas, in Indonesia's remote east in
a bid to quell the fighting, Antara said.

More than 500 people have died in just over a week of clashes as Christians and 
Muslims battle each other with guns, machetes and
home-made bombs, said officials in the provincial capital Ambon, 2,300 km (1,400 
miles) east of Jakarta.

But the remoteness of the Moluccas -- covering 86,000 square kilometers (33,000 square 
miles) -- and poor communications make an
accurate count difficult.

Ambon was quiet on Tuesday as markets and some banks reopened in the once sleepy port 
town that now looks like a battlefield.

Police say about 1,500 people have died in fighting between Christians and Muslims 
over the past year in one of mainly-Muslim
Indonesia's worst religious conflicts.

While about 90 percent of Indonesia's 200 million people are Muslim, the spice islands 
are almost evenly split, with about 54
percent of the almost two million people Muslim and more than 44 percent Christian.

The violence erupted after a dispute between a taxi driver and a local drunken man in 
the main Ambon island a year ago.

It has since spread throughout the scattered islands and the government, military and 
local community leaders have been powerless to
stop it.

Many blame shadowy outside provocateurs, but residents say the fighting is purely 
between locals enraged and bitter after a year of
bloody violence.

President Abdurrahman Wahid and his government are coming under mounting criticism for 
failing to stem the bloodshed.

Elected in October as a unifying figure after two years of social and economic chaos, 
Wahid handed personal responsibility for
resolving the spice islands crisis to Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Both recently made a brief visit to Ambon, but the government has yet to take any 
special measures or draft a new strategy.

Didistribusikan tgl. 4 Jan 2000 jam 07:37:28 GMT+1
oleh: Indonesia Daily News Online <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>

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