Beliefnet
JAKARTA, Indonesia, May 18 (UPI) -- Sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia's Moluccas islands entered a third-day Thursday, leaving at least 27 people dead and dozens wounded, officials said.

Residents of Ambon said Muslim mobs attacked and torched Petra Church and dozens of vacant houses in the Ahuru Karang suburb of Sirimau sub-district, while gun battles continued. The official Antara news agency quoted residents of Ahuru suburb as saying that several hundreds of people, believed to be members of the Muslim hard-line group Laskar Jihad, or Holy War Troopers, torched the houses.

"The situation here in Ambon is like a dead city. Tension remained high here as sporadic gunshots, huge explosions continue to rocks the town until this morning," one resident said by telephone.

Fighting between Christians and Muslims erupted Tuesday afternoon in the Ambon, leaving at least 19 people dead and more than 60 others wounded, officials said. It was the latest violence in the city since late last month when six people were killed and more than a dozen others injured in the same area.

At least eight people were killed and 16 others injured in Jailolo sub-district of the northern Moluccas, following Muslim and Christian clashes Wednesday evening.

The fatalities brought the death toll to 27 people from a three days of fighting. Antara quoted witnesses as saying that security personnel backed violent actions by a group of black-and-white clad people by opening fire on residents, while mobs set blazes in houses. Witnesses said the renewed clash broke out Tuesday afternoon after a youth, indentified as Nyong Fenandus, was killed by a truck in hit-and-run accident.

Soon afterwards, rumors spread that a car, along with two passengers was torched at a suburb, and immediately, rival Muslims and Christians masses clashed on the streets between Batumerah and Mardika suburbs of Ambon, the capital of Moluccas province.

The violence follows the arrival of a fresh batch of some 600 Laskar Jihad on Sunday in Ambon, bringing the number of jihad warriors in the Moluccas islands to about 2,000.

More than 2,500 people have died in the sectarian clashes since early 1999.

About 88 percent of Indonesia's 210 million people are Muslims, but Christians used to be a majority in Moluccas, which also known during the Dutch colonial rule as the Spice Islands.

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