14 dead, homes burned in Indonesian ethnic clashes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2012, 2:30pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2012, 6:13pm

Hundreds of police and soldiers have been dispatched to restore security in western Indonesia after 14 people were killed and dozens wounded in ethnic clashes, police said on Wednesday.

Four people died during a clash on Sunday in Balinuraga village of Lampung province, and the death toll climbed to 14 with more people killed when the clashes continued on Monday and Tuesday, National Police spokesman Brigadier General Boy Rafli Amar said.

Amar said the three days of violence were triggered by minor sexual harassment among young men and girls from the Lampung ethnic group and Balinese descendants on Sumatra island.

Most residents of Balinuraga are of Balinese descent and migrated to Lampung under a government migration programme during Suharto’s New Order regime.

Amar said nine people were hospitalised with stab wounds and broken bones, and more than 1,300 villagers had to be evacuated from their homes into a temporary shelter in a police compound in the provincial capital, Bandar Lampung.

Authorities are trying to stop the fighting, Amar said, adding more than 1,500 police and 500 soldiers were sent to the area on Tuesday when the fight escalated as angry mobs set alight more than 160 houses and a dozen vehicles.

Television footage showed houses and vehicles burning, with blood and broken glass on the streets. Soldiers carried bloodied bodies away.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed concern and ordered an investigation on Tuesday shortly before leaving on a trip to the United Kingdom.