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14 dead in Lampung violence

Jakarta Post - October 31, 2012

Oyos Saroso H.N. and Bagus BT Saragih, Bandar Lampung/Jakarta – The National Police have dispatched reinforcements to South Lampung regency where 14 people have died and dozens of others were evacuated, following a three-day clash between members of two communities.

National Police spokesperson Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said more than 1,500 police personnel had been deployed to the location. "We are on full alert," Boy said on Tuesday.

Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander Adm. Agus Suhartono said that about 500 military personnel had been deployed to help improve security in the area. "We don't plan to deploy more personnel at the current time," he said.

The Lampung Police said that four people were killed during an incident in Balinuraga hamlet, in the Way Panji district, South Lampung, on Sunday. A further 10 people lost their lives when another clash broke out on Monday

"One of the victims, Sholihin, 35, a resident of the Kalianda district, died after undergoing treatment at the Abdul Moeloek Hospital in the provincial capital of Bandar Lampung. Other deceased victims were found inside houses, some were also found dead at their farms," said Lampung Police spokesperson Adj. Sr. Comr. Sulistyaningsih. Police also said that 16 homes were torched during the clash.

In the aftermath of the violence, police evacuated 192 Balinuraga residents, mostly children, women and elderly people, to a temporary shelter erected in a police compound in Bandar Lampung.

The displaced residents, mostly from Balinuraga and the nearby Agom village in Kalianda district, were still reeling from the violence and were concerned about their safety. The majority of Balinuraga's population are of Balinese descent who migrated to the area during the New Order period.

On Tuesday, members of the Lampung Police and the Marine Corps were seen patrolling the area.

Unconfirmed reports attribute the clash to ethnic tensions between the native Lampung ethnic group, Balinese descendants and Javanese. Messages of hatred are allegedly circulating on social media sites and by text messages.

The Lampung Police have not yet named any suspects in the clashes. The police are still looking for the mastermind behind the clashes, which began after men from Balinuraga allegedly assaulted two young women from the neighboring Agom.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said shortly before leaving for the United Kingdom that security officials could not be blamed for the recurring violence in the country.

"I call on all sides to take responsibility. All parties must care for and work toward creating peace and harmony. Never again leave it to the police and TNI. Only with the people's active participation can we optimally and effectively prevent further clashes," Yudhoyono told a press briefing at the Halim Perdanakusuma Air Force base in East Jakarta.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto said that local leaders could have played a more significant role in preventing the violent incident. "The police and TNI cannot prevent such an incident successfully without the involvement of local leaders and the civil society," Djoko said.

National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo said that the recurring violence, especially in Lampung, had prevented police personnel from working effectively in their handling of communal conflict. "This means that we must work harder, especially to mobilize efforts by local leaders and religious figures," he said.

Timur confirmed that the clashes were triggered by minor incidents that involved youths from the two villages. National Commission on Human Rights commissioner Siti Noor Laila, a native of Lampung, agreed that ethnic tension did contribute to the outbreak of violence in Lampung.

"I also regret the fact that the authorities have failed to detect the shimmering tension and prevent it before it broke out," she said.