The terrorists who shot their way into provincial government building in Assen yesterday belong to a community of close to 40,000 South Moluccans, most of whom have lived in the Netherlands since the Moluccan Islands were absorbed into the former Dutch colony Indonesia in 1949.

In recent years, South Moliccans have claimed responsibility for a series of terrorist acts in their campaign to win independence for their homeland.

The most spectacular attacks were last May 23, when South Moluccan militants hijacked a passenger train near Assen and seized a village schoolhouse in Bovensmilde. In all, 166 hostages were held during the 20-day siege. Six terrorists and two hostages were killed when Dutch troops stormed the train June 11 to free hostages. The hostages at the school, including 106 children, were released four days after the start of the siege.

In a similar two-pronged attack in December 1975, terrorists simultaneously hijacked a train in the north of the Netherlands and took over the Indonesian consulate in Armsterdam. Four persons died during the two-week siege.

A policeman was killed in 1970 when South Moluccans seized the Indonesian Embassy in The Hague during a visit by Indonesian President Suharto. In 1974 South Moluccans stormed and damaged the building housing the World Court in The Hague.

The Moluccas, once known as that Spice Islands, are a chain of 150 islands in eastern Indonesia, west of New Guinea. Their population is about 1 million, compared to Indonesia's 147 million. The Mollucas are about 32,307 square miles in area, about the size of Maine. All of those involved in recent terrorist acts have been from Ceram or one of the smalller islands in the southern end of the chain.

The islands were discovered by Portugal in 1512 and captured in the early 1600s by the Dutch, who developed the spice trade.

Unlike other immigrants from former colonies, the South Moluccans have never integrated into Dutch society and still hope to set up an independent republic in their homeland.

They believe the Dutch promised them self-determination, which the Dutch deny. Indonesia has refused the South Moluccans' demands to recognize an independent republic, and the Dutch say there is nothing they can do about the islander's plight.