Indonesian govt arrests religious violence suspects

Indonesia's Sulawesi police have arrested at least 15 Muslims on suspicion of involvement in a series of bombings and shootings targeting Christians over the last 5 years.

The men, who were rounded up after eight months of police surveillance, are suspected in 13 cases between 2001 to 2006, including the beheading and mutilation of three high school students in 2005 and attacks on two markets in 2004, said national police spokesman Brigadier General Anton Bachrul Alam, the China Post reports.

Investigators are hunting another 29 suspects still at large, he said.

Sulawesi was the scene of fierce gun battles between Christians and Muslims from 1998 to 2002 that left at least 1,000 people from both faiths dead.

A peace agreement ended the worst of the violence, but tensions flared anew after the execution last month of three Catholics convicted of leading a 2000 attack on an Islamic school that killed at least 70 people.

Critics say the men did not get a fair trial and allege that religion played a role in their sentencing, noting that only a handful of Muslims were punished, and none given more than 15 years in jail.

In weeks following the executions, mobs killed two Muslim traders and a prominent Christian priest and at least seven bombs went off in Poso and nearby Palu, none of them deadly.

AsiaNews adds that in an unusual move, Indonesian police also released the names of the 15 suspects.

Two groups, referred to as Tanah Runtuh and Kompak Kayamanya, are said to have been behind the spate of violence in Poso and Palu between 2001 and 2006, and are considered very dangerous and well armed, capable of using bombs, guns and other weapons.

Tanah Runtuh is so named after a village near Poso. Its members include Hasanuddin, Harris, who is alleged to have masterminded some of the bloodiest crimes in the area including the murder of three Christian female students in October 2005, the murder/mutilation of Rev Susianti Tinulele, a Protestant clergywoman, the murder of John Pajoya, a member of the Central Sulawesi Synod of Churches and the bomb attack against Palu's Emmanuel Church in 2004.

In another sign that the Indonesian government is trying to win favour from the Sulawesi Christian population, Jakarta has also sent troops to Poso to begin rebuilding homes and infrastructure damaged during the sectarian fighting of 1999-2001.

The move comes a day after Vice President Jusuf Kalla met local religious leaders to discuss ways to ensure peace in the troubled province, AsiaNews says.

Police names 15 terrorists involved in attacks in Poso and Palu (AsiaNews, 31/10/06)
Indonesian police arrest at least 15 suspects in religious violence on Sulawesi island (China Post, 31/10/06)
Jakarta sending troops to Poso to start reconstruction (AsiaNews, 31/10/06)

More strife in Indonesia in aftermath of executions (CathNews, 17/10/06)
Christians held over new killings in Indonesia (CathNews, 11/10/06)
Reports of torture before execution of Indonesian Catholics (CathNews, 28/9/06)
Indonesia allows executed Catholic's body to return home (CathNews, 26/9/06)
Indonesian Catholics executed this morning (CathNews, 22/9/06)
Execution looms again for Indonesian Catholics (CathNews, 20/9/06)
Demonstrators call for execution of Indonesian Catholics (CathNews, 5/9/06)
Fate of Bali bombers raises hope for three condemned Indonesian Catholics (CathNews, 22/8/06)
Miracle last hour stay of execution for death row Indonesians (CathNews, 14/8/06)
Thousands rally to save death row Catholics in Indonesia (CathNews, 11/8/06)
Indonesian Catholics to face firing squad on Saturday (CathNews 10/8/06) a/A>
Indonesian death row Catholics lose court appeal (CathNews 16/5/06)
Further appeal opportunity for Indonesian death row Catholics (CathNews 19/4/06)
Activists maintain fight for death row Indonesian Catholics (CathNews 10/4/06)
Second clemency plea for death row Indonesian Catholics (CathNews 28/3/06)
Pope sends envoy to death row Indonesians (CathNews 22/3/06)
Indonesian bishop condemns Catholics' death sentence (CathNews 29/11/05)
Looming execution of three Indonesian Catholics (CathNews 17/11/05)
Indonesian bishop concerned about resurgence of violence in Poso (CathNews 16/8/02)

1 Nov 2006