Sun, Sep 24, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Security tightened in Sulawesi

SECTARIAN VIOLENCE Two of the men executed on Friday will be buried today, while troops are still hunting in the jungle for scores of prison escapees


Relatives look at the body of Dominggus da Silva, one of the three Christians executed by firing squad on Friday, after a requiem mass at a church in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, yesterday. The trio were executed for allegedly leading attacks on Muslims six years ago that left at least 70 dead. Family and friends dug up da Silva's body after the government buried it because they wanted to rebury him in their own coffin and in his own clothes.


Thousands of security personnel guarded churches and markets yesterday after the execution of three Roman Catholic militants sparked sectarian violence in the world's most populous Muslim country, with mobs torching cars and looting stores.

Soldiers and policemen were scouring the jungles for nearly 180 inmates who escaped after Christian youths attacked a prison on Friday in the West Timor town of Atambua, sending guards fleeing into the jungle, local police chief Lieutenant Colonel Heb Behen said.

So far, only 25 inmates have been caught or have surrendered, Behen said.

The executions of the Christian militants by firing squad for a brutal massacre at an Islamic school six years ago appeared to smooth the way for the executions of three Muslims convicted in the 2002 Bali bombings.

Some analysts said the government would be unwilling to spark public anger by carrying out death sentences against the Islamic convicts ahead of the Christians.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla appealed for calm following Friday's violence, which left at least five people injured.

He said the executions had nothing to do with religion.

Fabianus Tibo, 60, Marinus Riwu, 48, and Dominggus da Silva, 42, were convicted of leading a Christian militia that launched a series of attacks in May 2000 -- including a machete and gun assault on an Islamic school where scores of men were seeking shelter.

Muslim groups put the death toll at 191.

The attack on the school was one of the most brutal incidents during sectarian violence that swept central Sulawesi province from 1998 to 2002. At least 1,000 people from both faiths were killed.

However, only a handful of Muslims were ever punished for their part in the unrest, and none to more than 15 years behind bars.

Although violence in Sulawesi, which has a significant Christian presence, largely ended with the signing of a peace deal in 2002, there have since been isolated attacks, from bombings to beheadings. The town of Palu, the provincial capital and the scene of Friday's pre-dawn executions, was quiet yesterday with hundreds of policemen patrolling the main roads.

But tensions remained over a government decision to hastily bury one of the condemned men, da Silva. Family and friends dug up his body, saying they wanted to rebury him in their own coffin and in his own clothes.

The bodies of Tibo and Riwu were returned to their hometowns in Beteleme, where families and friends planned to bury them today.

On Friday, Christian mobs rampaged in the Sulawesi villages of Tentena and Lage, torching cars and police posts after learning of the executions.

On the island of Flores, the condemned men's birthplace in East Nusatenggara province, machete-wielding youths terrorized residents and tore apart the local parliament, breaking windows and smashing doors and overturning benches.

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