This story is available at: /112/ 43.php

Christmas bloodshed feared for Indonesian island

Catholic sources believe Muslim militants in Sulawesi are preparing for a Christmas of bloodshed.

Rome-based missionary news agency Fides reports that at least a thousand Muslim militants, believed to belong to the Laskar Jihad group, are hidden in the forest in the predominantly Catholic Tojo District in Central Sulawesi.

Fr Jimmy Tumbelaka of Tentena told Fides that a group of militants left town after the arrival of a special force of police sent by Jakarta: "Now they are hiding in Tojo forest and surroundings, a secluded area, from where they can easily attack Tentena which is not protected by troops."

Indonesian Deputy President Hamsah Haz has confirmed that the government intends to restore peace in the area: "We will take immediate steps to end the conflict in Poso. The government will not let the situation deteriorate."

In Surabaya, the capital of East Java, police have confiscated an illegal stock of weapons believed to belong to Laskar Jihad. Police are investigating to see if the arms can be connected with the disappearance some months ago of 700 machine guns and ammunition, looted from the police headquarters in Ambon, capital of the Moluccas.

Laskar Jihad