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JAKARTA, Indonesia (December 2, 1998 - Agence France-Presse)---More than 1,000 Indonesian "transmigrants" have fled Manokwari in remote Irian Jaya province, scared off by rumors they would be attacked and killed by locals, reports said here Wednesday.

The 1,112 transmigrants -- Indonesians sent under a controversial government policy from populous districts to remote areas -- boarded a ship for their home provinces on Saturday, the Indonesian Observer said.

"They went home because they were provoked by rumors that non-Irianese would be expelled, targeted in riots or even killed," the Antara News Agency quoted one resident of the area as saying.

The scare erupted after Moslem mobs burned churches in Jakarta on November 22, the report said.

Native Irian Jayans are Melanesians, and most are Christians, while the transmigrants are predominantly Moslem.

The Observer said that before the panicky exodus the settlers sold all the belongings they could not carry including motor-cycles, cars, and household goods, indicating that they were leaving for good to their old homes in Sulawesi, in other islands in the Moluccas and in Jakarta.

The reports did not say whether any of the transmigrants had remained in the Manokwari area, but said troop reinforcements including marines, mobile brigade police, and elite combat strategic command troops had been rushed in.

An unnamed military commander was quoted by the Observer as saying the local tribes in the area "need not be frightened by the large scale military presence."

Michael J Field Agence France-Presse Auckland, New Zealand TEL: (64 21) 688-438 FAX: (64 21) 694-035 E-Mail: WWW:

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