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Report: kids fighting in Indonesia

Associated Press - February 25, 2000

Rome – Both sides in the Christian-Muslim conflict in Indonesia are using child soldiers, sending boys as young as seven into fighting with firebombs in their backpacks, the Vatican missionary news service said Thursday.

So many children were recruited over January that one charity-run school was forced to close for lack of pupils, the schoolmaster, the Rev. Passianus Daeli, was quoted as telling Fides news service.

Indonesia's Maluku and North Maluku provinces, known as the Spice Islands during Dutch colonial rule, have been bloodied by clashes between Christian and Muslim mobs for months. Up to 1,000 people are reported to have died at the height of the fighting in late December and early January.

Missionaries in the region say at least 200 boys have been recruited as fighters. Fides quoted missionaries as saying that children are being sent into battle armed with incendiaries and other weapons, and that those who are wounded are often left to die.