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At least 13 dead in Maluku riots

Agence France Presse - February 14, 1999 (abridged)

Jakarta – At least 13 people were killed and 43 injured when troops and police opened fire to quell fresh Moslem-Christian clashes in Indonesia's troubled eastern province of Maluku on Sunday morning, residents and reports said.

The state Antara News Agency quoted the head of Haruku island sub-district, Suwardi Koli, as saying the death toll on the island had reached 11 and 43 had been injured.

Antara said two more victims had died in hospital on the neighboring island of Saparua and the bodies had been returned to Haruku. Nine more of the injured were in intensive care, it said.

A local journalist, speaking to AFP by phone from neighbouring Ambon island and citing local police, also put the death toll at 13. He said most died of gunshot wounds when police from the mobile brigade and soldiers, obeying "shoot on sight" orders for riots, opened fire to quell the violence.

Eight of the dead were from mainly Moslem Pelauw, three from Kailolo village, also predominantly Moslem, and two from the Christian village of Kariuw, he said.

Another 43 were injured when police and troops tried to prevent mobs attacking houses Sunday morning, he said. But 30 houses in the Christian village of Kariuw were burned before the violence was quelled.

The trigger for the attacks was the burning of a Christian house Saturday, he said. "Tensions between the residents of the two villages (Kariuw and Pelauw) had been mounting since last night," he said. "Kariuw villagers had already been evacuated after a house belonging to a resident there was burned by an unidentified group."

Koli confirmed that 30 houses had been burned but said the situation was under control. The reporter told AFP that troops had fanned out and were guarding neighbouring villages to prevent the riots from spreading. Police could not be be reached for comment.