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23 Dead in Indonesian Religious Violence - 2004-04-26


Indonesian officials say the death toll has risen to at least 22 in the Maluku islands, where Christians and Muslims have been fighting for two days.

As night fell Monday, fighting eased to sporadic gunfire in the provincial capital, Ambon. More than 100 people have been injured in the violence.

Mobs have torched several homes and buildings, including a United Nations office and part of a Christian-run university. Indonesia sent 200 police reinforcements to Ambon to help restore calm.

Authorities say the violence began Sunday when members of a small Christian separatist movement tried to march through Ambon to mark the anniversary of a failed independence bid 54 years ago.

The fighting comes as Indonesian politicians campaign for July's presidential elections. The unrest in the Malukus is the worst since February 2002, when a peace deal ended three years of religious violence that killed thousands of people.

The Malukus are 26,00 kilometers east of Jakarta. Although Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, about half the islands' population is Christian.

Information for this story is provided by AP and AFP.

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