Asia-Pacific

Troops sent after deadly clashes in Indonesia's Ambon

Security personnel on guard in Ambon on 12 September 2011
Image caption Several hundred troops have been deployed in Ambon to stabilise the situation

The Indonesian government has sent hundreds of security personnel to the eastern city of Ambon following sectarian clashes that left five people dead and 80 injured.

The violence was sparked by rumours a Muslim motorcycle taxi driver - who police said died in a traffic accident - had been killed by Christians.

It erupted on Sunday, when rival groups clashed at the man's funeral.

Houses, cars and motorbikes were set on fire during the violence.

Ambon - the provincial capital of the Molucca islands - has been hit by sectarian violence in the past.

Conflicts between Christians and Muslims between 1999 and 2002 left more than 5,000 dead and half a million people displaced.

Indonesian police say that Darvin Saiman died on the way to hospital after losing control of his motorbike and crashing.

But text messages saying that he was killed by Christians were circulated to many Muslims in the area, reports the BBC's Alice Budisatrijo in Jakarta.

Crowds gathered at his funeral, where the two sides traded insults, then started throwing rocks and setting fire to houses and cars.

National Police chief Gen Timur Pradopo said 400 extra officers had been deployed to the area.

The Indonesian security minister told journalists the city was gradually returning to normality, and the main focus was to prevent provocation to further divide the people of Ambon, our correspondent adds.

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