The Jakarta Post, April 26, 2004
Fresh Ambon clash kills six
Azis Tunny and Octavianus Pinontoan, Ambon
At least six people were reported killed and dozens of others severely wounded on
Sunday afternoon after a fresh major outbreak hit Ambon, the capital of Maluku
The incident, which is feared to be a precursor to another prolonged sectarian clash in
the Spice Islands, also left a United Nations building severely damaged.
The incident began when some 25 members of the separatist Maluku Sovereignty
Front (FKM), mostly of the Christian faith, staged a rally in Ambon to mark the 54th
self-proclaimed anniversary of the South Maluku Republic.
Led by FKM secretary-general Moses Tuanakotta, the rally departed at 11:30 a.m.
local time from the house of Alex Manuputty in Kudamati subdistrict at 11.30 a.m
local time. Manuputty, the exiled chairman of the grouping, was convicted by an
Indonesian court, but fled to the U.S. before sentencing could be carried out. The
FKM members, carrying the group's flag, headed to downtown Ambon, guarded by
two motorcycle policemen.
On Jl. Dr. Tamaela, several of the group jeered at military personnel passing the
street, saying: "Hey, get out of here. This is not Indonesian territory."
They also exchanged jeers and insults with the Muslim community living along the
street. The two groups hurled a few stones at each other and more Muslims
descended into the area.
At 1 p.m., Muslims and Christians began to form opposing lines along at least four
streets in Ambon, namely Jl. Diponegoro, Jl. A.M. Sangadji, Jl. Sitanala and Jl.
Anthony Ribok. They were armed with machetes, homemade rifles, pipes, sticks and
The situation soon deteriorated into violence and Ambon was again chaos. On Jl.
Anthony Ribok, opposing groups fought openly without the presence of any security
The United Nations Project Coordination Office on the same street was set ablaze,
while several cars parked outside the building was gutted.
Patrick Sweeting, head of the local United Nations Development Program's crisis
prevention unit, said in Jakarta that all UN staff in Maluku were safe and had been
moved to a hotel in the city. The UNDP has five staffers in Ambon and other UN
agencies have about another 10, he was quoted as saying by AFP.
Several refugee shelters in Mardika and Talake subdistricts were also heavily
damaged. Shots and explosions could be heard on Sunday afternoon, while columns
of smoke enveloped parts of the city.
Residents quickly packed their belongings, left their homes and fled to safer areas,
while others stayed and remained vigilant over further possible clashes.
With a tight security escort, Maluku Police chief Brig. Gen. Bambang Sutrisno,
Maluku Governor Karel Albert Ralahalu and Ambon Mayor M. J. Papilaja made their
way to Tugu Trikora, in front of the Silo Church on Jl. A.M. Sangadji, to calm the
Bambang called on them not to leave their homes after 6 p.m. and urged everyone to
keep Maluku stable.
Provisional figures from Al Fatah Hospital show that the fresh conflict left four dead
and 50 others with severe injuries. Haulussy Hospital reported two dead and nine
injured, while 12 people were being treated at Muqadam Hospital, three of whom were
in critical condition.
Sunday's outbreak was the worst after the government-sponsored Malino II peace pact
was signed in 2002, following bloody sectarian clashes that erupted three years
earlier. The conflict was triggered in January 1999 by a trivial incident between a bus
driver and a passenger from separate faiths. Thousands of Muslims and Christians
were killed, while hundreds of thousands fled to safer places.
The government lifted the state of civil emergency in Maluku last September, but it is
feared the fresh Sunday outbreak might signal a return to the city's bloody history.
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