8 accused of setting fires in Indonesia

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PEKANBARU, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian authorities have arrested eight farmers for setting illegal fires on Sumatra island to clear land after numerous blazes created a thick haze choking parts of Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, police said Tuesday.

The farmers were arrested Monday and Tuesday after being caught ‘‘red-handed,’’ said local police spokesman Lt. Col. Hermansyah. He did not say whether they were employed by some companies that have been accused of deliberately starting the fires.

About 1,100 residents were forced to flee Rantau Bais and Bangko Pusako villages in Riau province Tuesday as acrid smoke from nearby burning peat swamps and palm oil plantations made breathing difficult, Hermansyah said.

‘‘The smoke has hurt their throats and eyes,’’ said Hermansyah, who like many Indonesians uses one name.

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