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Indonesia Religious Clashes Kill 25

August 11, 1999

AMBON, Indonesia (AP) _ Police and soldiers shot at battling mobs of Muslims and Christians in eastern Indonesia on Wednesday as street fighting between the religious groups flared, police and witnesses said.

At least 25 people have been killed in rioting since Monday in Malaku province. Riot police shot and killed some people, witnesses said. Mobs stabbed or beat others.

One person died and four were severely injured when fighting erupted Wednesday in Poka, a village near the strife-torn provincial capital, Ambon, said Islamic official Imam Rachman.

``All were shot by security officers,″ he said.

Maj. Jekriel Philip, a spokesman for the Maluku police force, confirmed the shootings but denied that officers used live ammunition.

``We were forced to shoot rubber bullets at the crowd,″ Philip said. ``Some people were hit by live rounds but we have not yet determined whether they were fired by policemen or civilians.″

Frightened villagers in Poka said outnumbered officers fired directly at rioters.

``We are very scared. We can hear shots ringing out sporadically,″ Cornelis Pakarbesi said.

Residents said the fighting started in Ambon’s Mardika and Batu Merah neighborhoods, where resentments between Christians and Muslims first led to bloody conflicts in January. More than 300 people have died in the clashes in Malaku, 1,450 miles east of Jakarta.

Sporadic gunshots and bomb explosions echoed across Ambon neighborhoods, while abandoned houses were set ablaze on Wednesday. Witnesses said a body was floating near a harborside marketplace in Ambon and two men were killed in Gudang Arang, a western neighborhood. Some residents reportedly have sought shelter in churches, mosques and military facilities.

An orderly at Ambon’s main hospital said doctors have treated at least 120 wounded people since Monday night. Officials said police were among the injured.

Update hourly