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Unrest continues in South Sulawesi

Jakarta Post - January 16, 1999

Clashes among residents from several villages in the district of Sabbang in LUWU regency which have killed at least three people and injured dozens more continued on Thursday.

The unrest which started on Monday forced at least 400 residents from the warring villages, Dandang, Pompaniki, Kampung Baru and Kalotok, to seek refuge in the LUWU capital of Palopo, about 550 kilometers north of the provincial capital of Ujungpandang, on Thursday.

It was earlier reported that five people had been killed but so far only three have been identified – Husein, 18, Hasdil, 18, and Rahim, 22. At least 87 homes were set on fire in the clashes on Monday and Tuesday.

Local police however said on Thursday that they had been able to contain the conflict after at least 300 Mobile Brigade personnel were deployed to the area. A truck full of military personnel sent to secure the area had an accident in which four were injured.

The cause of the fighting was still not clear but Wirabuana Military Commander Maj. Gen. Suaidi Marasabessy suspected on Thursday that the rioting was triggered by inter religious and ethnic tensions. Another local officer had suggested "revenge and drink."

Meanwhile in Ujungpandang, authorities seized at least 336 pieces of military certified 7.62 millimeter ammunition from the house of a resident, Daeng Tutu, on early Thursday. Suaidi said that the ammunition was ordered by someone in Palopo. He suspected that the ammunition would be used in the clashes between residents of the warring villages. Residents and security personnel said that warring parties had armed themselves with homemade firearms and an assortment of crude weapons.

Suaidi admitted that ammunition of the type confiscated once belonged to the armory of the Armed Forces (ABRI). However he said that he still could not confirm whether the ammunition was from an ABRI arsenal as the matter was still under investigation.

Suaidi was in the provincial capital along with South Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Mudji Santoso on Thursday to brief the local legislators about the latest situation in LUWU.

Suaidi added that the authorities had also found a location on Wednesday suspected to be a "factory" for the assembly of homemade firearms in Toraja, some 330 kilometers north of Ujungpandang, He said that security personnel since Wednesday had been raiding houses in the warring villages to search for homemade firearms and sharp weapons.

Monday's unrest was the latest incident in a long-standing dispute between the villages. Since last August, 26 people have been killed, 119 more injured, and at least 395 houses have been set on fire.