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Moluccas (Maluku) Island group and province in e Indonesia, between Sulawesi (w) and New Guinea (e); the capital is Ambon. The fabled Spice Islands were originally explored by Ferdinand Magellan in the early 16th century, and later settled by the Portuguese. The Dutch took the islands in the 17th century and monopolized the spice trade. After Indonesian independence, the s Moluccas were the focus of secessionist forces. The group includes the larger islands of Halmahera, Ceram, and Buru, and the island groups of Sula, Batjan, Obi, Kai, Aru, Tanimbar, Banda, Babar, and Leti. Products: spices, copra, timber, sago. Area: 74,505sq km (28,759sq mi). Pop. (2000) 1,977,570.