Missionary says Indonesia played down death toll in Borneo riots

 A missionary in Indonesia has said that the death toll from last month's ethnic clashes in Borneo was many times higher than official government estimates. While the authorities said just 400 people died in Sampit between 17-18 February, Fr Willibald Pfeuffer, Holy Family missionary and diocesan administrator of Palangkaraya, the provincial capital of Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, said more than 3,000 died in the violence between the indigenous Dayak and migrants from Madura. Fr Willibald, a German priest who has lived in Borneo for 28 years, told the Missionary News Service: "Many people died attempting to cross the Mentaya River, near Sampit. Others died while seeking refuge in the forest. When the Dayak found bodies on the road, they threw them in the river. 700 decapitated heads were recovered". He added: "On 19 February we found out that the Madurese wanted to attack the 'Don Bosco' mission of Sampit, where there are Dayak children. A young Dayak priest, another priest and six nuns work at the mission. Fortunately, a Madurese lady contacted the potential attackers and talked them out of their plan". Father Willibald said tensions had been building up for decades in the region as migrants from Madura island were flooding in and seen to be taking over the land of the native Dayak peoples.

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