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Muslim militants in eastern Indonesia burned down several hundred homes in an overnight attack on a mainly Christian area where 26 people were killed in three days of fighting.
The attacks on Christians in Maluku province, once known as the Spice Islands, continues with no end in sight, according to the Washington, D.C.-based human rights group International Christian Concern.
Laskar Jihad warriors
On Monday, several hundred homes of Christians were burned down in the Tanah Lapang Kecil and Batugantung neighborhoods of Ambon, the provincial capital.
The attack began at about 3 a.m. and continued into the afternoon hours until all of the homes were destroyed, ICC said.
According to news reports, government buildings have been abandoned and taken over by unidentified snipers using the rooftops to scout victims, including several policemen who have been killed in the past few days.
Maluku, which has been about half Christian and half Muslim, came under attack between 1999 and 2002 from a radical Islamic group called Laskar Jihad, or Army of Holy Warriors, which aimed to make Indonesia an Islamic state.
As WorldNetDaily reported last year, the group has continued to operate despite formally announcing it had disbanded.
Many of its members have joined the al-Qaida-linked terror network Jemaah Islamiah, blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings and last year’s suicide attack on the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta.
According to the Australian Associated Press, the latest violence began when members of the region’s small Christian separatist Republic of South Maluku marched through Ambon to mark the 54th anniversary of a failed independence bid.
Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, with more than 180 million. A minority supports the radical Islamic parties that share the aim of converting the nation into an Islamic state, analysts say.
In response to the march, the AAP said, Muslim gangs torched houses and churches, and set fire to a local Christian University and United Nations offices.
Several people also were hacked to death with machetes by the mobs, AAP reported, before hundreds of troops from Jakarta arrived to try to quell the attacks.
Under Indonesia’s former leader in the 1970s and 1980s, Suharto, Muslims were sent to Maluku to dilute the secessionist movement.
The separatist leaders called for international intervention to stop the fighting while Christian leaders in Jakarta appealed to the central government.
The leader of the radical Muslim Brotherhood, Habib Husein al-Hubsyi, threatened earlier this week to send 7,000 holy warriors to the province.