Christians have claimed that Indonesian soldiers razed a church to the ground and looted houses in the fourth day of bitter religious fighting in Ambon.
More than 100 Ambonese Christians demonstrated outside police headquarters to demand action against at least five soldiers who they said had burnt the Nazaret Church early yesterday.
Several witnesses at the smouldering remains of the church insisted soldiers from the army’s 111th Airborne Battalion had been involved in the attack.
Piet Hatu, whose lives 50 metres from the church, said he was one of about 30 people guarding the church when soldiers arrived around 7.30pm on Tuesday and said they would help protect it.
The soldiers stayed with them until around 2am when small bombs began exploding next to the church and the soldiers ordered everyone to leave. “They said it’s too dangerous, we have to go. We went to the road about 50 metres away and waited and after about half an hour they burnt the church,” he said.
He was adamant the soldiers had burnt it and eight houses, but said he did not see them doing so and had no proof.
He said it was possible the army had attacked wrongly believing that Christians like him supported the tiny separatist group, Republic of South Maluku, whose supporters staged a march on Sunday which sparked the violence.
The spokesman for the army’s Maluku command, Major Paiman, denied the military had burnt the church. He agreed his men were there.
He did not know how many soldiers had been assigned to guard the church and by late yesterday he had heard no reports from them of what had happened.