01/21/2015, 00.00
INDONESIA

Central Sulawesi, new wave of Islamist violence: Murders, kidnappings, mutilations

by Mathias Hariyadi
Since last November Poso and the province have been the scene of an escalation of targeted attacks and barbarism. Police and authorities invite citizens not to go out, the farmers cannot cultivate the fields. Activists: "a wave of unconfirmed rumors" increasing "panic" among people. Appeals to the government to assure safety.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Poso and Central Sulawesi province are the scene of a progressive wave of violence that has flared up last since November and that in recent weeks has seen an escalation of attacks, kidnappings, assassinations of Islamic tendency with the barbaric mutilation of bodies . In spite of the Malino peace agreement, signed in 2001 to put an end to years of bloody clashes between Muslims and Christians (Protestants), now the region looks set to fall again into chaos. The situation is delicate, so much so that the police and local authorities invite citizens - for security reasons - not to leave their homes. The prohibition is extended to the farmers, who cannot tend their fields.

The new wave of violence began on 15 November, when a local resident named Muhammad Fadli was assassinated by unknown assailant before the eyes of his family. He was a simple peasant, witness - against his will - of a shootout between police and Islamic extremists active in the area. On December 10, two Sedoa villagers (Poso) were kidnapped by a terrorist group and are still in the hands of their captors.

Again, on December 27 three inhabitants of Tamadue were "taken" by Islamic terrorists: one of the three men was killed, the second released while the fate of the third is still unknown. The violence continued into January: on January 17 three citizens of Tangkura (Poso Pesisir) disappeared they were later killed and their corpses brutalized. Finally, two other people were killed and mutilated in a brutal manner.

In an attempt to put an end to the violence, activists and human rights groups active in the area have promoted peace initiative, calling for the state to intervene to ensure the safety of citizens. According to the Institute Mosintuwu Suara Perempuan Poso ("The female voice of Poso", ed), banning farmers from tending their fields is the wrong signal. Interviewed by AsiaNews activist Lian Gogali speaks of "rumors and hearsay" that are spreading in an "uncontrolled manner" and that help fuel "panic" among the people.

To counter this the group issued a statement in which it emphasizes four essential steps to restoring peace and security to the population: a rejection of all forms of violence of a religious background; police and military must provide security and maintain peace and harmony; ensuring the smooth running of daily activities; media and newspapers should avoid fomenting sectarian divisions and not disseminate bloody footage or images that end up exacerbating the situation.

Between 1997 and 2001, Christians and Muslims were involved in a violent conflict on Sulawesi Island and neighbouring Maluku Islands. Thousands of people died and hundreds of churches and mosques were destroyed. Thousands of homes were also razed. About half a million people found themselves homeless, 25,000 in Poso alone.On 20 December 2001, the two sides reached a truce that was signed in Malino, South Sulawesi, following a peace initiative by the government. The local population is evenly split between Christians and Muslims. Despite the peace deal, terrorist incidents continued on and leaving a trail of innocent victims. One of the most horrific cases, which caused indignation around the world, was the beheading by Muslim extremists in October 2005 of three Christian girls on their way to school.

 

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Tensions rising in Poso, police shooting at armed civilians
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Bomb targets Hindu temple in Indonesia
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