Troops `killed 24 in church'

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The Independent Online
INDONESIAN troops shot dead 24 Christians sheltering in a church on the island of Ambon on Wednesday during the latest Christian-Muslim violence,priests and aid workers said.

Soldiers of Kostrad, the Indonesian Strategic Command, fired on the Protestant church in Galala, said Andreas Lopulalan, the minister. "I buried 21 of the victims... in the backyard of the church."

Fourteen bodies were found elsewhere in the town and 257 civilians and 16 members of the security forces were injured, said Captain Sutarno, a military spokesman. "There are indications that some civilians were firing weapons."

The Kostrad troops arrived recently from Java after local forces failed to keep the peace between the two religions.

The violence began in January with a fight between a minibus driver and a passenger. Christians and Muslims blame each other for starting the violence and both say government forces are biased against them.

"Beside the Muslim mobs supported by gunmen... there were officers with automatic rifles passing through the streets and firing on any Christians they find there," a statement by Christian churches said.

Capt Sutarno said the statement was "one-sided".