ASIA/INDONESIA - Alarm in Indonesia: members of radical Muslim paramilitary Laskar Jihad group land in Moluccas to defend “brother Muslims” and join the “holy war”

Friday, 30 April 2004

Jakarta (Fides Service) - There is a red alert in Indonesia’s Moluccas islands where local Muslims and Christians are engaged in new clashes: reliable sources contacted by Fides confirm that members of the Muslim paramilitary Laskar Jihad group were seen among the fighters. In fact reportedly Muslim paramilitary Laskar Jihad have come from various parts of Indonesia to Moluccas to defend “brother Muslims” and join the “holy war”. Fides sources say that thousands more, some say as many as 12,000, sent by Muslim organisations in Surabaya, East Java, and South Sulawesi, are preparing to land in Ambon
Groups of new Mujaheddin were seen around the capital Ambon. Local police and army troops, warned of the presence of the paramilitary, took up positions on a hill near to village of Kuda Mati, not far from Ambon to stop the advance of the armed fanatics. If they enter the city there will be a carnage and clashes would turn into open war, warn Fides sources who ask to remain anonymous.
Precisely today Security Minister Hari Subarno made a public call on Laskar Jihad not to send volunteers to Moluccas, but his appeal went unheard. Laskar Jihad was disbanded in 2002, after the signing of the peace agreement.
The fear that the situation might deteriorate if militia groups from outside the Moluccas were to arrive , was voiced yesterday by Bishop Petrus Mandagi, Catholic Bishop of Amboina. In an exclusive interview with Fides the Bishop said: “ In the case of foreign interventions, such as the arrival of Laskar Jihad, the conflict could degenerate. The central and local authorities must take the situation in hand to prevent this from happening ”.
The Bishop added: After three years of conflict the situation is very tense and people are still suffering from trauma and are easily provoked. Everyone in Ambon is afraid. All the Christians fear they will be regarded as separatists with the SMR which is not true. The Muslims are worried about the international situation in Iraq and the Middle East, and fear an international intervention, so they claim their Muslim identity. The war is still too recent and scars remain and it is easy to trigger new outbreaks of violence in a context where reconciliation is still fragile”. ”.
Today Bishop Mandagi, launches a new SOS, calling on the United Nations to help restore peace in the Moluccas. Voicing the concern of the local Church, the Bishop says there appears to be “no way out ”: and he calls on the UN and all nations to “defend the rights of the people of Ambon to live in security”.
The text urges the Indonesian government to put an end to fighting between Christians and Muslims and to take care of the victims, especially the displaced persons whose number grows daily.
Should the feared war break out, he calls on the international community to “help those in Ambon who wish to live in peace, to leave the city, the Moluccas and even Indonesia and to reach a place where they can live without fear and violence”.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 30/4/2004 lines 55 words 609)