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Bombing Kills 4 in Eastern Indonesian Province - 2002-04-03

Violence has re-ignited in Indonesia's eastern province of Maluku after an explosion rocked its capital city Ambon, killing at least four and wounding dozens of others. It is the first violation of a peace deal signed by Christian and Muslim groups in February.

The bomb went off Wednesday morning in a Christian district of Ambon, the capital of Maluku Province. Indonesian officials have said the intensity of the blast suggests that someone with a sophisticated knowledge of explosives had designed it.

The bomb triggered panic among residents and mobs of Christians descended on the governor's office and set fire to it. Police and military fired warning shots to disperse rioters.

Isabel Fougery, of the Jakarta office of the humanitarian group Doctors without Borders, said her people in Ambon say the situation is now under control.

"The situation seems to have very much calmed down. The Special Forces are out. It seems there are roadblocks as well. It seems more like everyone went home. It is like a dead city now, apparently," she said.

No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Muslim militants have threatened to disrupt the fledging peace process.

The violence marks the most serious breach of a peace plan signed by the province's Christian and Muslim communities in February.

More than 5,000 people have died in fighting between the groups in the past three years. The government-sponsored plan calls for rival Muslim and Christian factions to disarm and allow refugees from both faiths to return home.

Analysts say the reasons behind the violence are multi-faceted. Tension between the two communities grew with the collapse of the Indonesian economy in 1997, creating competition for limited jobs. Many have said it was only after violence had broken out due to economic strains that rival factions aligned themselves according to religion.

Maluku Province is one of several flash points for separatist, communal or religious violence on the sprawling Indonesian archipelago.