Muslim mob kills priest and his son in Maluku

Discovery of graffiti slandering Islam sparks off fresh spate of violence as Muslim and Christian groups clash.

A CHRISTIAN priest and his son were among four people killed as fresh violence erupted in the strife-torn Maluku islands.

Police sources said yesterday that protracted fighting between rival Muslim and Christian groups in Tual, 540 km south-east of Ambon city, broke out on Wednesday morning and was continuing as security forces tried to quell the rioting.

“The situation is very threatening,” said First Sergeant Edi from Tual’s police headquarters. “Angry villagers attacked and burned shops, houses and places of worship.”

He declined to comment on what sparked off the unrest, but disclosed that a Christian priest, Buce Hehanusa, and his son were stabbed to death by a rampaging Muslim mob that killed another person on Wednesday. A fourth person died yesterday morning from an arrow wound to the heart.

Local reports said that tension had risen after the discovery of graffiti slandering Islam in the Warhir village in Tual. The graffiti was found on theeve of the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival on Sunday. Residents blamed the violence on “instigators” who had fled the violence in Ambon last month. AFP yesterday quoted others there as saying that violence erupted after security forces fired into a crowd of Christian youths on the streets.

Tual’s police chief, Colonel Bugis Samon, seeking to downplay the spate of violence, said that the situation was “now under control”.

District military and police chiefs were also holding emergency meetings with religious and local leaders to “calm things down”. “There was violence in Tual, but the media could be exaggerating the extent of the problem and the numbers killed,” he told The Straits Times. But did not say how many have died.

The clashes forced many to seek refuge in military installations and mosques.

Bloody clashes between Muslims and Christians in the Maluku islands since mid-January this year have left almost 200 people dead.

The latest bout of violence comes after a “brief honeymoon of peace”, with the armed forces sending a special task force to Ambon to prevent future ethnic and religious riots in the area.

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