Indonesia sends troops to quell sectarian clashes

AP News
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Posted: Sep 12, 2011 8:39 AM
Indonesia sends troops to quell sectarian clashes

Indonesia sent security forces to an eastern region after gangs of Muslims and Christians armed with rocks and machetes clashed in violence that left five people dead and more than 150 injured, officials said Monday.

The violence broke out in the Maluku provincial capital of Ambon on Sunday after rumors spread that a Muslim motorcycle taxi driver who died in a traffic accident had been killed and tortured by Christians, said Capt. Marinus Djati, the Ambon traffic police chief.

Groups of Muslims confronted Christians after the man's funeral. The two sides traded insults and later started throwing rocks and swinging machetes, police said. The rioters also set fire to houses, cars and motorcycles despite police attempts to disperse them with warning shots, Djati said.

Five people were killed and 154 others were injured, 31 of them seriously, said Bakrie Asyatri, the Ambon government spokesman. He said a tense calm had returned to the city by Monday afternoon.

National Police spokesman Maj. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam said more than 400 special forces were deployed in Ambon.

Indonesia is overwhelmingly Muslim, but Christians form the majority in parts of Maluku _ known as the Spice Islands in colonial times _ and other eastern regions.

More than 9,000 people were killed in sectarian violence in Ambon between 1999 and 2002 but the area has been largely peaceful since then.