More than 100 dead in Indonesian killing spree

Bodies beheaded in clashes between indigenous group and immigrants
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More than a hundred people have died in bloody fighting between an indigenous group and immigrants on Indonesia's Borneo Island, police confirmed today.

More than a hundred people have died in bloody fighting between an indigenous group and immigrants on Indonesia's Borneo Island, police confirmed today.

Many of the dead were mutilated and at least 20 bodies were beheaded, said Sgt Tigei, a police officer in the town of Sampit, in Central Kalimantan province.

The state Antara news agency said gangs paraded several severed heads around the town.

Tigei, who like many Indonesians only uses one name, said skirmishes were continuing and several houses were still on fire.

The latest fighting highlights the breakdown of law and order in Indonesia, as old ethnic hatreds erupt after more than three decades of authoritarian rule.

Clashes between indigenous Dayaks and immigrants from other parts of Indonesia first erupted on Sunday in Sampit, about 480 miles north-east of Jakarta.

Police said they were using rubber bullets against mobs rampaging through the town.

Hospital official Komaruddin Sukhemi said at least 51 bodies had been brought to the local morgue.

Hundreds of people were seeking shelter in the hospital complex and at police stations. Thousands more were fleeing the town, police said.

"There are many people on the streets," said a Sampit resident who identified herself only as Umi. "Please pray for us."

National police chief Gen Suroyo Bimantoro said two battalions of police and soldiers had been dispatched to boost security in the region.

A navy warship was also on its way to the area to help evacuate refugees, he said.

Police said that about 80 people had been arrested in the past few days and hundreds of homemade weapons, including machetes and spears, have been confiscated.

Police have arrested two local government officials, after accusing them of inciting the fighting.

The US State Department Wednesday urged American citizens not to travel to Indonesia, warning that unrest and violence could break out at any time.

Enmity between the Dayaks and the migrants, mainly from Madura Island, 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. At least 260 people were killed in 1999. Dozens also died in attacks in 1997.

Over the past 40 years, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly Madurese, have resettled in Kalimantan - the Indonesian part of Borneo Island. They were moved as part of a government transmigration program designed to relieve overcrowding in other areas.

Indonesia's president Abdurrahman Wahid flew out of Indonesia for a 14-day trip to the Middle East and Africa.

He told reporters at the airport that he was unconcerned about leaving amid a political crisis that threatens his presidency and renewed violence.

Defense Minister Mohammad Mahfud said there was a possibility that the president's political rivals could try to stir up more trouble during his absence.

"I am sure that there are many parties that will act up," he said after seeing Wahid off at the airport.