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Laskar Jihad and the conflict in Ambon

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Frenzied slaughter, savage mutilations, forced conversions, and the wanton destruction of property characterized the conflict in Ambon following its eruption on 19 January 1999. Driven by the festering wounds of past colonial injustices against Muslims and present Christian fears, as well as by rumors of a Christian conspiracy to wipe out Islam, on the one hand, and of Islamization policies on the other, it claimed an estimated 9,000 lives and produced more than 400,000 refugees. Yet it was not until the emergence of Laskar Jihad and the group’s determination to wage jihad in Ambon that Jakarta politicians started to take note, albeit without doing much to address the situation. The call for jihad also attracted international attention, again without significant action. In fact, only after the events of 11 September did Laskar Jihad’s interpretation of Islam, paramilitary presence, and above all its international links to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines come under closer scrutiny. This brought pressure on the Indonesian government to find a solution to the Ambon conflict, which resulted in the February 2002 Malino II Declaration.

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