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New religious unrest erupts in Indonesia

Agence France Presse (abridged) - January 30, 1997

Rengasdenglok – A mob attacked churches and a Buddhist temple in the country's latest bout of religious unrest, prompting troops to patrol the streets.

In a rampage similar to recent incidents across the overwhelmingly Muslim country, hundreds of people torched one church and attacked three other Christian churches and two Buddhist temples in a West Java town, a local official said.

Another source said a complaint by an ethnic Chinese about noise made by Muslims sparked the disturbances. The crowd set ablaze and damaged scores of vehicles and buildings in the rampage, said district head of Karawang, a neighbouring town. He said there were no casualties but two small banks, some shops and homes belonging to ethnic Chinese, were also damaged.

Order appears to have been restored when journalists entered the town, which was cut off to vehicles. But the town was tense with every shop closed and scores of military guarding the empty streets, armed with machine guns.

A source said the unrest erupted after an ethnic Chinese resident complained about noise from neighbouring Muslims. During the Muslim fasting month which started on 9 January, Muslim youths often wake up neigbours to make sure they eat before dawn.

Another church source said the town had been tense since Tuesday after the authorities tried to remove sidewalk hawkers from the local market.

A local ethnic Chinese shopowner told AFP that his shop and a number of others were pelted with stones.

'We are scared, but we cannot leave town as all the roads are blocked,' he said, adding that rumors were circulating that the mob would start new trouble. Some people had started putting 'Muslim owned' signs in front of buildings. Humanika is involved in the Tasikmalaya case