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Muslim migrant killed in riot over priest insult

South China Morning Post - February 22, 1997

Agencies in Dili and Jakarta – One man was killed and several others injured yesterday when 6,000 East Timorese set fire to the homes of migrant Muslims in reaction to reports a Catholic priest had been insulted at a Muslim gathering.

At least seven people were injured during the six-hour riot in Ambeno district in the former Portuguese colony.

The dispute began after the priest reportedly was served left-over chicken bones as a guest at a Muslim dinner to celebrate Halal Bihalal, a Muslim gathering usually held after the Eid al-Fitr holiday, Filomeno Musquito, the top official in Ambeno, said.

The Catholic East Timorese heard about the insult and rioted through a colony of Bugis migrants from South Sulawesi. The colony is 190 kilometres west of Dili, the capital of East Timor.

Mr Filomeno said in a telephone interview that 86 houses, two cars and four motorcycles owned by Bugis migrants were set ablaze.

A 30-year-old Bugis man, Mahmud Abu, was killed, he said. No arrests had been made.

The Government encourages migrants to move to more remote islands to ease population pressure in central islands.

In overwhelmingly Christian East Timor, discontent over migration is more deadly because of simmering anger against Indonesia, which invaded in 1975.