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Indonesia secures churches as fears of terror attacks grow JAKARTA - Muslim-dominated Indonesia on Monday ordered more security at potential flashpoints after renewed attacks on Christian churches sparked fears of a repeat of deadly Christmas Eve bombings four years ago. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told police chiefs to be on alert for possible terrorist attacks around the country after two attacks on churches in Central Sulawesi province late Sunday left three people seriously injured.
The separate bomb and gun attacks on the Emanuel and Anugerah churches in the provincial capital Palu came just two weeks before Christmas, fuelling concerns that extremists were plotting more attacks. A series of blasts at churches across Indonesia on Christmas Eve 2000 left 19 dead. The attacks, blamed on Muslim militants, preceded the October 2001 Bali bombings in which 202 people were killed.
Authorities say the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah regional terror group was responsible for the Bali strike. Some have blamed the organization -- behind several other major blasts -- of having a hand in the church attacks. Central Sulawesi has seen intermittent violence between Muslims and Christians since more than 1,000 people were killed in clashes four years ago. The government has sponsored peace talks but tensions persist.
Five months ago gunmen opened fire on a church in Palu, killing a female minister and wounding four worshippers. In May, a prominent Christian prosecutor was killed in Palu as he left another church. Cabinet Secretary Sudi Silalahi on Monday told journalists that Yudhoyono had summoned top security minister Widodo Adisucipto and National Police Chief General Da'i Bachtiar to discuss measures to halt further attacks.
"The president instructed the national police chief to step up security and protection in Palu and anticipate the possibilities... We should be alert so that this does not take place in other areas," Silalahi said. He said the cities of Jakarta, Medan in North Sumatra, Makassar in South Sulawesi would get special attention as potential trouble spots. Police have already announced extra guards at 332 churches in Surabaya, East Java.
Meanwhile security minister Adisucipto said the Palu incidents were "terror acts". Vice President Yusuf Kalla, speaking on the sidelines of an energy conference here, said he had asked the intelligence agency to step up efforts to find those behind the Palu strikes and prevent further attacks. National police spokesman Paiman declined comment on how security would be increased, but military chiefs said their men were also on standby to assist.
"Security is the responsibility of the police. The Jakarta military command is only readying troops and whenever the police ask, they will be deployed," said Jakarta Military Garrison Commander, Agustadi. In Palu, the city's police chief Noman Siswandi was immediately replaced for alleged negligence in failing to prevent the church attacks despite orders to post extra personnel at places of worship. "He will be replaced later today. He should have been providing better police protection for the churches," Aryanto Sutadi told AFP.
Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim-populated state, with 88 percent of its 223 million people following Islam. Only eight percent are Christians, although Central Sulawesi is equally divided between the two faiths. Islam is not the official religion and the constitution provides for freedom of worship.



Posted in Violence @ 14 December 2004 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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