MEDAN, Indonesia (AP) — Buddhist and Muslim asylum seekers from Burma brawled with rocks and knives Friday at an immigration detention center in Indonesia, leaving eight combatants dead and another 15 injured, police said.
The melee broke out at the center in North Sumatra province, where more than 100 Rohingya migrants — most intercepted off Indonesia’s coast in rickety boats — and 11 illegal fishermen from Burma were being held together, said local police chief Endro Kiswanto.
He said witnesses told police the clash started after a Muslim Rohingya confronted a Buddhist fisherman about sectarian violence in their homeland. Insults were traded, and people began fighting with rocks and knives.
Eight Buddhists were killed, and 15 Rohingya were injured. Three other Buddhists escaped unharmed, Kiswanto said.
All of the victims were rushed to a hospital in the provincial capital, Medan, about 23 kilometers (14 miles) south of Belawan.
“We are still investigating the incident, including how they got knives,” he said. “We will expedite their repatriation.”
Sectarian violence erupted in central Burma last month when mobs of armed Buddhists torched Muslim-owned homes and shops. Dozens were killed and thousands, mostly Muslims, were forced to flee.
Last year, hundreds of people were killed and more than 100,000 made homeless in violence in western Burma between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims.