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Three arrested over Ambeno killing

The Straits Times - February 25, 1997

Ambeno, East Timor – Indonesian police have arrested three people and are hunting another who allegedly killed a man during unrest in East Timor last week which left more than 300 people homeless, The Jakarta Post reported yesterday. The three people were arrested on Saturday, the report said, adding that police were also looking for others, including a man who allegedly stabbed to death a Muslim migrant from South Sulawesi in the unrest which erupted on Friday in Ambeno, 200 km west of the East Timor capital, Dili.

A protest by some 6,000 East Timorese for an alleged slight against a local Roman Catholic priest Lazarus Mau turned into an attack on migrants from South Sulawesi. One migrant was killed, 10 injured and scores of buildings and vehicles burned or damaged. Indonesia, the largest Muslim-populated nation in the world, annexed the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in 1976, where most of the 800,000 residents are Roman Catholic.

Lieutenant-Colonel Hambali, who heads the Ambeno military command, said on Sunday that the unrest left 329 people homeless.

He estimated financial losses caused by the rioting at 2 billion rupiah (S$1.3 million), adding that the homeless were being housed in barracks at the police district office and the military sub-district office.

A source in Dili said yesterday that the situation in Ambeno had returned to normal.

Father Mau gave a Sunday mass calling on the Catholic community to keep the peace.

"I have already asked the Christians in this area to stop acting in a bad way, and stop destruction. I have also asked them to go back to work," Father Mau was quoted as saying by the Antara news agency. The priest had attended a feast at a local military base on Wednesday with other local dignitaries, religious leaders and public figures, where leftover food was allegedly handed to him in a lunch box.

The local population began protests against the alleged slight on Thursday and the protest turned violent the following day. – AFP.