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JAKARTA, Aug 12 (AFP) - Uniformed men massacred at least 25
and possibly 30 Christians after locking them inside a church
in Indonesia's riot-torn city of Ambon, residents and priests
there said. A resident in the Galala area told AFP by phone he
witnessed some 30 troops in the uniforms of the army's Kostrad
strategic command attacking two churches in the area and
leading a massacre of about 30 residents on Wednesday.
"There were some 30 Kostrad members ... They led a mob of
hundreds of Moslems to attack the Yabok church," the witness
who preferred anonymity told AFP by phone from neighbouring
Tantui area.
"They were shooting at us and some of us ran and hid. There
were about 30 people rounded up into the Yabok protestant
Church, then the Kostrad shot from outside the church."
The massacre and eight more people killed Thursday brought the
death toll since renewed Moslem-Christian violence broke out
in Ambon on July 27 to at least 97.
The military said Wednesday 65 people have been killed and 242
seriously injured since July 27 but made no mention of the
Galala massacre.
In Wednesday's massacre, the bodies of the dead were dragged
out of the church, cut up, and then burned, residents said.
"I could see the smoke from afar but didn't dare move closer,"
the witness, who had been standing some 200 meters (668 feet)
away from the church, said.
Another Protestant church some 50 meters away from the Yabok
church caught fire but there were no casualties, he said.
Residents buried charred remains believed to belong to some 19
people on the following day and "picked up the shell casings
from the ground and off the walls for evidence," he said.
"Some officers from the military police assisted today's
burial and collected data of the incident. We gave some of the
shells for evidence to them," he added.
Father Fred from the Yohanes Viane Catholic church said by
phone from Ambon he estimated 25 people died, citing
eyewitness reports.
"Reports from eyewitnesses who live in a house across the
street from the Yabok church said about 25 people were
killed," the priest said.
The Catholic church lies some 200 meters from the Yabok church
in Galala, some three kilometers from the center of Ambon.
Those eyewitnesses said the killings were carried out by four
men in the uniforms of Kostrad and one mobile brigade
policeman, he said.
"Most of this is true," he said of reports the men were locked
in the church, shot and their bodies dragged out and burned.
"I don't know whether or not all the victims have been buried
today ... but as of this morning, coffins were still being
made," he said.
"I heard there was a mass burial of 25 Christians in Galala
today," another Catholic priest, Father Bohm, said by phone
from Ambon.
Bohm also said he had seen on the local state television
Maluku police had arrested four "fake" Kostrad members.
Maluku province police spokesman Major Philip Jekriel denied
troops had been involved in any massacre. "No massacre took
place," he said.
"There was fighting between Moslems and Christians in the
Galala area yesterday and a total of six people died, but not
only in Galala," Jekriel told AFP by phone from Ambon.
Fighting at the city's Air Besar, Karang Panjang, Aster and
Batumeja neighbourhoods Thursday killed at least eight, staff
from the Al-Fatah mosque and the Silo Protestant church told
AFP by telephone.
"Three men were shot in the head by mobile brigade police
troops in Aster area ... some two kilometers (one mile) from
downtown Ambon," said Malik Selang from the Al-Fatah mosque.
Yosef Musila from the Protestant Silo church in Ambon said
four Christians were killed by alleged "fake troops" in the
Batumeja area.
Earlier Thursday, a source with the governor's office, told
AFP one man was shot dead with a makeshift weapon.
Some 840 soldiers from two battalions in Central and East Java
arrived by ship in Ambon Thursday to reinforce security there,
said Captain Sutarno of the Maluku military information
The new troops brought the number deployed from outside the
province to four battalions, including a battalion of marines
sent at the end of July. An Indonesian battalion numbers at
least 600 men.
Ambon and other islands in Maluku province were hit by months
of Moslem-Christian violence earlier in the year which left
more than 300 dead, drove tens of thousands to other provinces
and caused massive destruction.

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