Indonesia police hunt suspected militants after four Christians killed

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From the Sydney Morning Herald

Jakarta: Police in Indonesia are hunting suspected militants accused of killing four people said by rights groups to be Christians, beheading one and burning down their homes.  Seven houses in Lemban Tongoa, in Sigi District, were burnt down.

Ten militants linked to a “terrorist” group beheaded one victim and slit the throats of the others on the island of Sulawesi on Friday, national police spokesman Awi Setiyono quoted a witness as saying. Initial reports have linked the militants to extremist group Islamic State.

This attack is another serious escalation against the Christian minority in Indonesia,” Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono said. Gomar Gultom, the head of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, said the victims were Christian and urged the authorities to resolve the case. The victims belonged to a church run by the Salvation Army.

The brutal murder of four Christians in the Indonesian province of Central Sulawesi was inspired by the Islamic State, but not ordered by it, according to one of the world’s foremost experts on the terror group.

Police and the military are still hunting for 10 members of the militant group East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), which has pledged loyalty to IS in the past. The director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, Sidney Jones, said the Islamic State’s official propaganda channel had claimed the murders as an act in support of the terrorist group. “ISIS media claimed credit and yes, it was inspired but not directed by ISIS,” she said 

“This was a sub-group of MIT led by a man named Qatar, who has been involved in attacks with machetes in March and then August this year. This is the first time in a while we have seen the Christian community targeted, usually they go after informants who have been assisting the police, or the police themselves.”

Jones said it was not yet clear why Christians had been targeted . . . (national police spokesman Awi Setiyono denys the attacks were religiously motivated.)

She said MIT had probably no more than 14 active members and just a handful of guns, which is “one of the reasons they have used machetes” in the latest attack. “They [MIT] have made a point of moving around the jungle [in the region] in a way that has enabled them to elude pursuers,” Jones said. That and a lack of training in jungle combat for Indonesian city police have held back attempts to bring the group to justice. While the military units had had the relevant training, they did not know the jungle in the area well, which had also slowed down attempts to apprehend the group.

 

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