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Bali Latest in Indonesia Bloodshed

October 18, 2002

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Bali, devastated by a weekend terrorist bombing that killed nearly 200 people, had been the least violent of Indonesia’s 30 provinces.

The sprawling Southeast Asian nation of 13,000 islands spread across four time zones has been beset by bloody separatist, religious and ethnic conflicts since 1998, when former dictator Suharto was ousted.

After a U.N.-sponsored plebiscite in East Timor resulted in a massive vote for independence in August 1999, the Indonesian military and its proxy militias destroyed the region and killed about 2,000 civilians. International peacekeepers forced them to withdraw.

Separatist movements in Aceh and Papua provinces at opposite ends of the sprawling archipelago have been bloody.

In Aceh, rebels have been fighting Indonesian rule since 1976 and the death toll keeps mounting. An average of 1,500 people have died each year in the region on the tip of Sumatra island.

In Papua on the western half of New Guinea island, security forces have been blamed for killing hundreds of people, including top pro-independence politicians.

Indonesia’s bloodiest conflict had been a religious war between Muslims and Christians in Maluku province _ the former Spice Islands. An army-backed armed Muslim militia was dispatched to the islands where it was blamed for slaughtering thousands of Christian villagers.

Up to 9,000 people died in the war, which ended in a government-sponsored cease-fire in February.

About 2,000 people died in a smaller religious conflict on the nearby island of Sulawesi.

A number of smaller intercommunal conflicts have erupted throughout the vast archipelago. In February 2001, about 1,000 settlers were slaughtered by Dayak headhunters in Kalimantan, on the two-thirds of Borneo island Indonesia rules.

Most of these conflicts have gone virtually unnoticed in the international media, although the bloodshed in Aceh and Maluku are the bloodiest conflicts in Southeast Asia.

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