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Thousands of Christians flee Sulawesi violence


Thousands of Christian villagers on Indonesia's Sulawesi island are fleeing attacks by armed Muslim paramilitaries, according to Church sources.

Refugees are being housed in churches and government buildings, said Fr Langgino Sangkide, a priest from the town of Tentena.

"Thousands have fled," he told Associated Press. "What could they do? Their houses have been burned. The police came yesterday, but it was too late."

The Jakarta Post newspaper reported that hundreds of homes in settlements around the coastal town of Poso had been destroyed by uniformed members of the Laskar Jihad militia group.

Fighting between Muslim and Christian villagers in Sulawesi, about 1600 km northeast of Jakarta, has claimed at least 1000 lives in the last two years. Dozens have been killed in recent weeks.

The Jakarta Post quoted Sulewesi's Catholic bishop, Josef Suwatan, as saying armed militiamen had used bulldozers to destroy homes, churches and schools.

The government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri has been reluctant to rein in Muslim militants. Analysts say Megawati is indebted to conservative Muslim parties that supported her campaign to oust reformist president Abdurrahman Wahid in July.

LINKS
Laskar Jihad

SOURCE
AP


5-Dec-01