05/10/2004, 00.00
INDONESIA
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The army's involvement in Christian-Muslim clashes in Moluccas

Clash victims die of wounds caused by gun and rifles fired by Indonesian soldiers.

Ambon (AsiaNews) – Mysterious sniper fire has riddled victims with precisely aimed bullets as Christians and Muslim violence has once again erupted across the island. The victims were killed with rifles fired by expert army and police firing units, said the Amboina Diocese Crisis Center while quoting Indonesia's English-language daily, The Jakarta Post. 

The Peace Building Institute, an NGO, pointed out that the snipers fired Styer SSG-69 rifles, just like those used by the Indonesian riflery unit (TNI) and the national police. According to Ichsan Malik, the Institute's director and political science professor at the University of Indonesia, this type of arm is capable of strking targets with great accuracy 1 km away. Malik said it was a weapon commonly used by military and police personnel and believes that snipers were specialists, citing the fact they could hit victims in the heart and between the eyes with remarkable precision.

Abubakar Riry, an activist,  said such arms are similar to those used in 2000 by an anti-sniper squad led by former Pattimura army commander, General Max Tamaela.  "It is still not clear what happened to this unit after  Tamaela was replaced by a new commander,"  Riry said.

As various analysts have already mentioned, the theory about TNO's involvement in the religious conflict now gains more weight. The Indonesian army's influence is also being speculated by the Christian camp. Last week General Bambang Sutrisno, commander of the provincial police force, was accused of  supporting the South Moluccas Republic (SMR) independence moment. 

Sutrisno was replaced by General Adita Barman, after being blamed, among other things, for having dealt with the Apr. 25 clashes too lightly, which broke out during a SMR rally.

Various leaders of the Moluccas Sovereignty Front (MSF), who seek independence from Indonesia, have been arrested and sent to Jakarta for questioning. Among them were a government worker and a Protestant pastor.

Meanwhile South Moluccas Islands residents have turned in some one hundred of rifles, 1327 bullets and 9 grenades to police forces. According to local army commander, Colonel Edy Widagdo, there are still many weapons in civilian possession.   
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