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Central Sulawesi situation may be exploding soon JAKARTA - Australian and Indonesian intelligence reports signal that murderous sectarian violence is to return to the area of Poso, Central Sulawesi. Last week, information was released concerning islamic militants that have been blamed for a series of deadly bombings in Jakarta and Bali could be in the last stages of planning fresh attacks in Poso. Australia warned nationals to avoild travelling to Central Sulawesi. The United States and New Zealand have issued similar warnings.

Local officials have warned of rising tensions, but the central government seems powerless because of week anti-terror laws. It is under pressure from Islamic leaders in the capital to act carefully. There is also concern that Indonesia's armed forces are not taking the threat seriously. Earlier this month the local police chief revealed that his men had been on top alert since early January despite the fact that earlier that day, General Sutanto (national police chief) announced that additional forces deployed in the area would be withdrawn.

The peace agreement organised by vice President Yusuf Kalla brought an end to a two-year conflict that killed almost 1.000 people, mainly in clashes between Muslims and Christians. Despite commitments made by the two sides, the situation in Poso remains tense and interreligious fighting flares up every once in a while. A police crackdown last month lead to fierce clashes with suspectes Islamic militants. 15 were killed, including a policeman. More suspected Islamic militants were arrested, but police warned that some others had probably fled to Java. Among them would be several Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) ringleaders.

The crackdown, backed by some Muslim leaders in Jakarta, sparked controversy with police in the middle for alleged human rights abuses. The raids brought in five members of a group which is believed to be responsible for several attacks, among them the bombing of a crowded market in Tentena in May 2005 in which 20 died. The suspects, are currently waiting trial in a court in Jakarta, have told investigators that they were given indoctrination lessons by members of JI in 2003, preparing them for a holy war.

Jakarta denies that Islamic militants are involved in Central Sulawesi. They say that the criminal underground of Poso is to blame, claiming religion fits their need to protect their networks of crime and corruption. Corruption in the government also exacerbates the problem. Local officials are suspected to siphoned off much of the humanitarian aid funds that were sent by Jakarta to renovate schools, churches and other buildings in the worst hit areas. Thousands of homes, schools and churches were destroyed by JI, Laskar Jihad and Laskar Jundullah when they swept through Christian villages in 2001, armed with rocket launchers and machine guns.

Laskar Jihad was formed in 2000 as a paramilitary group. It was to protect Muslims against Christians and it allegedly backed by some of the elements of the military. The group's leader, Jafar Umar Thalib, brings his sermons on fundamentalism with nationalism and opposition to any breakup of the Indonesian republic, a message with broad support in the armed forces. The current situation may signal at something more sinister than just a localized conflict. The former chief of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN), A.M. Hendropriyono, has warned that underground militia movements in Poso must be eliminated. Human rights groups claim that military reinforcements cannot stop the bloodshed because these forces are believed to be linked to the violence and conflict themselves.


Link to related event Related event:
Terrorism in Indonesia

Related blog entry (category 'Terrorism') Related blog entry (category 'Terrorism'):
19 February 2007 · Preachers and revenge push terror in Indonesia


Posted in Terrorism @ 20 February 2007 04:09 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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