Indonesia Muslim, Christian Gangs Battle. By ONGKY ANAKODA, The Associated Press


AMBON, Indonesia - Muslim and Christian gangs fought running battles in Indonesia's Maluku islands on Sunday, leaving at least 10 people dead, including two youths who were hacked to death by sword-wielding men, witnesses and officials said.

At least 50 people were wounded in the clashes in the provincial capital Ambon, hospital officials said. At least three buildings were set ablaze, including a church and an office housing U.N. agencies working in the region. There were no reports of U.N. staffers being hurt. More than 9,000 people were killed in the Malukus between 1991 and 2001 in fighting between Muslims and Christians that attracted Islamic militants from all over Southeast Asia.The two groups signed a government sponsored peace pact in 2002, but sporadic violence between them has continued and they now live in separate communities. Sunday's clashes were some of the bloodiest since the truce. They occurred after around a dozen members of the region's small Christian separatistmovement paraded through Ambon to mark the anniversary of a failed independence bid 54 years ago. Gangs of Muslim and Christian youths hurled rocks at each other in the center of the city, witnesses said. Gunfire was heard throughout the afternoon. Several small explosions rocked the city.The bodies of eight Muslims - most of them with gunshot wounds - were taken to the city's Al-Fatah hospital, the hospital's director Dr. Riva Ambon said. It was unclear who shot them. Witnesses said police and army were firing to disperse the rioters. There were also reports of unidentified gunme firing from tall buildings in the city. An Associated Press reporter saw a gang of around 50 people armed with swords and sticks hack two men to death close to the city's Pattimura University. The victims' bodies were left lying in the street. Their religious affiliation was not known. Ambon police spokesman Lt. Col. Hendro Prasetyo said that calm had returned by nightfall and that authorities were meeting to discuss whether to impose a curfew on the city. "People with no sense of responsibility triggered this unrest," he told el-Shinta radio station. He did not elaborate. Efforts by Christian separatists to campaign for independence are regarded as a provocation by Muslims in the province, and police had vowed to stop them marking Sunday's anniversary. Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, but South Maluku's two million people are evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. The Malukus are 1,600 miles east of Jakarta. Known as the Spice Islands during Dutch colonial days, the islands were once held up as a model of religious harmony.

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