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Rival Myanmar groups clash in Indonesia jail

Fight between Muslim and Buddhist detainees, sparked by communal violence in Myanmar, leaves eight dead and 21 injured.

Last Modified: 05 Apr 2013 16:43
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Assylum seekers at a North Sumatra detention centre in Indonesia where Muslims beat eight Buddhists to death [AFP]

At least eight people have died and 21 more were injured by fighting between Buddhist and Muslim asylum seekers from Myanmar at an immigration detention centre in Indonesia.

Police said the violence broke out early on Friday and lasted for about two hours at the detention centre in the northern Sumatra province, where more than 100 Rohingya migrants and 11 fishermen from Myanmar were being held.

The fight between the detainees reportedly erupted after they heard about communal violence in their homeland, which has left at least 43 people dead and many Muslim homes and mosques destroyed, police said.

"They managed to see some photos of the violence in Myanmar, including buildings on fire, and we believe that's when the violence broke out," local police chief Endro Kiswanto said. 

He said all eight Buddhist men, who were reportedly illegal fishermen, were dead when police arrived at the detention centre in the early hours of Friday morning, and 15 Rohingyas were injured.

All of the victims were rushed to a hospital in the provincial capital Medan.

Heru Prakoso, North Sumatra police spokesman told AFP that the detainees fought with pieces of sharp wood. Those killed were "beaten to death with wooden objects", he said.

The detention centre held 280 asylum seekers and illegal fishermen from Myanmar, Prakoso said.

Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen, reporting from Jakarta, said the Buddhist detainees "were clearly outnumbered" by Rohingya refugees, who were on their way to Australia. 

"This is a very bizarre incident," Vaessen said. "It's very unclear at this stage why the police or the security guards could not stop them from fighting for two hours". 

Secretarian violence 

Boats carrying asylum seekers fleeing sectarian violence in Myanmar are increasingly ending up on Indonesian shores. Many of those arriving face long stints in detention awaiting UN assessment for refugee status.

Last month's communal violence in Myanmar has left more than 1,300 homes and other buildings destroyed, according to state media.

Sixty-eight people have been arrested in connection with the unrest, which  has left 11,376 people homeless, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.

The clashes were apparently triggered by an argument in a gold shop in the central town of Meiktila that turned into a riot, but witnesses said the wave of violence since then appears to have been well organised.

It is the worst sectarian strife since violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the western state of Rakhine last year left at least 180 people dead, and more than 100,000 homeless.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) this week urged Myanmar to investigate the failure of police to stop the violence.

"The government should investigate responsibility for the violence in Meiktila and the failure of the police to stop wanton killings and the burning of entire neighborhoods," said HRW Asia director Brad Adams.

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Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
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