Ambon: Indonesia deployed security forces to an eastern region after gangs of Muslims and Christians armed with rocks and machetes clashed in violence that left three people dead and 80 others injured, officials said on Monday.
The violence broke out in the Maluku provincial capital of Ambon on Sunday after rumours spread that a Muslim motorcycle taxi driver, who died in a traffic accident, had been killed and tortured by Christians, said Capt. Marinus Djati, the Ambon traffic police chief.
Groups of Muslims confronted Christians after the man`s funeral. The two sides traded insults and later started throwing rocks and swinging machetes, police said. The rioters also set fire to houses, cars and motorcycles despite police attempts to break up them up with warning shots, Djati said.
Two of the three people killed were high school students, said Ita Sabrina, spokeswoman at a hospital where many of the victims were sent.
At least 80 people were injured, said Bakrie Asyatri, the local government spokesman in Ambon.
More than 200 special forces were being deployed in Ambon to try to bring down tensions, said National Police spokesman Major General Anton Bachrul Alam.
Indonesia is overwhelmingly Muslim, but Christians form the majority in parts of Maluku — known as the Spice Islands in colonial times — and other eastern regions.
More than 9,000 people were killed in sectarian violence in Ambon between 1999 and 2002 but the area has been largely peaceful since then.