Eight dead in fresh ethnic island clashes

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The Independent Online

Fresh ethnic clashes have flared on Indonesia's Borneo Island, leaving at least eight people dead, news reports said.

Fresh ethnic clashes have flared on Indonesia's Borneo Island, leaving at least eight people dead, news reports said.

The latest fighting brings to 28 the number of deaths since fighting between indigenous Dayak people and migrants from elsewhere in Indonesia erupted on Sunday in the town of Sampit, some 480 miles northeast of Jakarta. Most of the victims were hacked to death, police said.

State news agency Antara reported that open battles between the Dayaks and the settlers, mainly from the island of Madura, started Wednesday morning.

A local resident, who identified herself by the single name of Umi, said by telephone that hundreds of people were on the streets carrying machetes and daggers.

Umi said dozens of empty houses belonging to Madurese people had been set on fire.

Local police could not confirm the death toll from the fresh fighting, but said thousands of frightened people were fleeing the town.

Hundreds of trucks and buses packed with refugees had arrived in the neighboring central Kalimantan regional capital, Palangkaraya, said police officer Sgt Yahtera, who also goes by a single name.

Scores of people are sheltering at the main police station in the town, Yahtera said.

Enmity between the Dayaks and the migrants has often erupted into fierce brawls in the region. The fighting is often triggered by land disputes.

Hundreds of people have died in the past few years in a series of clashes.

Meanwhile in Medan on Sumatra island, the trial opened of a pro-independence activist from Aceh province on subversion charges.

Neither defendant Muhammad Nazar nor his defence team were present in court. The proceedings were adjourned for an unspecified time.

Nazar's lawyers have argued that the trial should be moved to Aceh for security reasons.

Nazar was detained by the police after organizing a pro-independence rally in Aceh's capital on November 11. He faces a maximum of 20 years in jail if found guilty.

Insurgents in the oil- and gas-rich province have been fighting for an independent homeland since the mid-1970s. At least 6,000 people have been killed in the past decade.

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