Tourists flee island as warring sects torch buildings

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The smouldering remains of burnt-out churches and the ransacked homes and shops scarred the landscape of the once idyllic Indonesian holiday island of Lombok yesterday as thousands of Christians Hindus and Chinese joined tourists fleeing sectarian violence.

The smouldering remains of burnt-out churches and the ransacked homes and shops scarred the landscape of the once idyllic Indonesian holiday island of Lombok yesterday as thousands of Christians Hindus and Chinese joined tourists fleeing sectarian violence.

Beaches and luxury hotels were deserted as the last of the island's foreign visitors left, driven out by three days of ethnic and religious tension in which at least five people are thought to have died.

Police in Lombok, which is about 600 miles east of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, warned that they would shoot troublemakers on sight and Islamic leaders appealed to their followers to stop rioting and cease attacks on Christians. The warnings appeared to have had some effect.

By yesterday morning the streets were calmer than they had been for days, but troops were out in force and thousands of members of the minority Christian and Chinese communities were evacuated to Bali under armed guard. Muslim groups, angry at the failure of the government to defend Muslims in the Moluccan islands, have been on the rampage for three days and are believed to have lists of Christian and Chinese-owned businesses that they have beentracking down for looting and burning. Police and army barracks were overflowing with people seeking protection.

In the Moluccan islands, meanwhile, tensions flared again, with hundreds of Muslims staging demonstrations to call for revenge after the tortured body of a 45-year-old Muslim man was found in a street in a Christian area of the provincial capital, Ambon.

The resurgence of tensions came despite Indonesia's vicepresident, Megawati Sukarnoputri, announcing that sheintends to boost spending on the country's most volatile regions - which have long complained that revenue generated by their minerals exports and natural resources is hoarded by Jakarta.

Meanwhile, senior military commanders in the Indonesian army moved yesterday to quash claims by the US ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, that they were planning a coup.

Comments