Ambon: calm returns, but Islamic fundamentalists launch holy war with SMS

» 09/19/2011 17:07
INDONESIA

by Mathias Hariyadi
Muslim and Christian community leaders continue peace building efforts as life in the city returns to normality. Police forces check and search for weapons and possible terrorists among persons travelling to east Java. 

Ambon (AsiaNews) – The situation in Ambon is returning to normality, local sources told AsiaNews, following days of Muslim Christian clashes which left seven dead, 60 injured and considerable material damage including torched homes. Today children went to school as usual, stalls appeared on the streets and rickshaws circulated in parts of the town formerly scenes of violence. Calm appears to reign in two central Ambon districts, Galunggung a Muslim majority area and Galala where the people are Protestant Christians. (12/09/2011 
Moluccas three killed and 60 wounded in Christian Muslim clashesi
Police and army troops are presiding strategic areas, but tension remains high, especially among people who had their homes burned down by unknown attackers. In the meantime interreligious dialogues and conferences continue in various places, in Java and in other areas of Maluku. A peace-building campaign has been started in Negeri Siri Sori Salam, a Muslim majority district on the island of Saparua. A meeting between Christians and Muslims has been organised by leading local Muslims to prevent future conflict.

Provocative issues launched by SMS are now under investigation by police detectives. Tension was created when spreading rumours said that the notorious radical Islamic Defender Front (FPI) from Java had landed in Maluku to prepare another attack in several Christian compounds in Waringin, Silo Church and Aster. Local Muslim chiefs and protestant pastors were soon informed about these false messages to prevent any potential conflict. 

In East Java, police deployed trained dogs to sniff out efforts to smuggle weaponry by radical groups to Ambon. Tight security and physical check is being conducted by security officials in Surabaya’s main Tanjung Perak port to any traveller bound to Ambon. Metal detectors and trained dogs are used to practice body search and detect dangerous materials brought by travellers on board to ships bound to Maluku. The same procedures are also conducted in several traditional “ports” for fishermen in Ponorogo, Pasuruan, Banyuwangi, Gresik –all in East Java Province.

““This provocative SMS for jihad mission has worried us,” said East Java police chief Inspector General Hadiatmoko earlier. To this present time, at least 130 sharp weapons have been confiscated by security officials from travellers bound to Ambon by ships. The East Java-based Council of Islamic Ulemas (MUI) had issued a statement to warn Muslim community to be fully alert to falsifying SMS circulating in the province urging radical groups to wage a jihad mission to Ambon.

Last week’s sectarian clash in Ambon was “fuelled” by a simple single accident involving a motorcycle ridden by a local Muslim teenager. The boy died of serious injuries while being rushed to a local hospital, but soon a falsifying SMS fuelled a false report that he had been murdered by Christian people which later prompted a total revenge from local Muslim community. Ambon in 1999-2002 was a scene of bloody sectarian clashes with Muslims and Christians involved in brutal war in the name of religion. An estimated 9,000 people from both sides were reported dead during that horrifying conflict, which left thousands more homeless and displaced.

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