Unidentified assailants attacked a group of high school girls yesterday in Indonesia's tense province of Central Sulawesi, beheading three and seriously wounding another, police said.
The students from a private Christian high school were ambushed while walking through a cocoa plantation in Poso Kota subdistrict on their way to class, police Major Riky Naldo said. The area is close to the provincial capital of Poso, located about 1,000 km northeast of Jakarta.
Naldo said the heads of the three dead victims were found several kilometers from their bodies.
In Jakarta, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered the police to track down the killers.
"In the holy month of Ramadan, we are again shocked by a sadistic crime in Poso that claimed the lives of three school students," he told reporters at the airport as he prepared to fly to Sumatra. "I condemn this barbarous killing, whoever the perpetrators are and whatever their motives."
He ordered the security forces to find the killers and maintain order in the region.
Central Sulawesi has a roughly equal number of Muslims and Christians. The province was the scene of a bloody sectarian war in 2001 and 2002 that killed around 1,000 people from both communities.
At the time, beheadings, burnings and other atrocities were common.
A government-mediated truce succeeded in ending the conflict in early 2002, but there have since been a series of bomb attacks and assassinations of Christians. These included a blast at a market in Poso, a predominantly Christian town, that killed 22 people in May.
Christian leaders have repeatedly accused the authorities in Jakarta of not doing enough to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
The Christian-Muslim conflict in Sulawesi was an extension of a wider sectarian war in the nearby Maluku archipelago in which up to 9,000 perished.