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Ethnic clashes kill hundreds in Borneo

The Guardian - February 13, 1997

John Aglionby, Jakarta – Hundreds of people have been killed in two weeks of ethnic unrest in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan in Borneo, a military source said yesterday.

Other reports said Indonesian soldiers had shot 17 people in quelling the violence between indigenous tribes and migrants from Madura, an island north-east of Java.

A newspaper report claimed that 2,000 people had died in the clashes. But an army spokesman said: "That's not true. Only a couple of hundred people have been killed in the violence." A reliable source said yesterday that the death toll exceeded 1,000. "Seventeen of those were Dayaks killed by soldiers while trying to break through a roadblock near the town of Sintang, 250 miles east of the provincial capital Pontianak."

The army spokesman denied this. "If soldiers had fired, it would have only have been warning shots in the air," he said.

There has been no official comment on the casualties by the army or the government. The latest unrest began at the end of January when migrants from Madura broke a truce brokered by community leaders by attacking a dormitory housing Dayak students. Two woman were allegedly beaten and raped.