Village clash forces 700 to flee homes in Southeast Sulawesi

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SULAWESI, Indonesia - More than 700 residents of Gunung Jaya village in Siotapina subdistrict in Buton, Southeast Sulawesi were forced to leave their homes to nearby Laburunci village on Wednesday afternoon following a brawl between the villagers and locals from neighbouring Sampuabalo village.

At least 56 homes were reportedly burned down during the clash.

"Yesterday [Wednesday] afternoon around 2pm we heard an explosion. We escaped to the woods. We brought our two children along," said Mira, a resident of Gunung Jaya, as quoted by kompas.com on Thursday at the temporary shelter.

"Some [young] villagers ran amok brandishing machetes. We could not salvage any of our belongings. My house has been destroyed," Mira added.

The victims took refuge in the houses of the Laburunci villagers, situated 25 kilometres away from Gunung Jaya village.

"People keep coming in and are being hosted at the residents' houses," said Laburunci resident La Bakri, adding that most victims were seniors and children.

La Bakri quoted eyewitnesses as saying that the number of houses destroyed in the clash had reached 87.

"Thank God, no fatalities were reported," La Bakri said.

The clash broke out after 40 residents of Sampuabalo village rode motorcycles and passed by Gunung Jaya village as part of the Idul Fitri eve celebration. The noise from the motorcade angered the residents leading to the brawl.

Southeast Sulawesi Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Harry Golden Hart said the police officers supported by Indonesian Military personnel had been deployed to stop the fight. Access roads connecting the two villages were temporarily closed.

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