11/09/2005, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Five arrests over beheading of Christian schoolgirls

Authorities have not revealed the identities of murder suspects, but a former policeman is said to be among them. A training camp for Islamic militants is found in Maluku.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Five people are in police custody in connection with the beheading of three Christian schoolgirls in Poso, Sulawesi Islands, according to police sources. A former policeman is said to be among those arrested.

"The role of these five people is still being investigated by police officers," said deputy national police spokesman Soenarko Artanto.

None of the five suspects in the case has been named, and it is not clear who arrested them, but the military have claimed credit for capturing four of them. According to Major General Kohirin Suganda, the Indonesian military's chief spokesman, the four were captured a few days ago.

Speaking through his spokesman about the October 29 attack in Poso and yesterday's violence against two other local schoolgirls, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that both are an attempt to reignite religious violence in the area. From 1998 to 2001, sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians in the Sulawesi had left more than 2,000 people dead.

Today Indonesian police also reported that it found a training camp for Islamic militants in the eastern Maluku Islands. This area too was the scene of violence between the two religious communities. In 1999-2000 more than 2,000 people died in violent clashes.

Artsianto Darmawan, a spokesman for the local police, said that they found out about the camp on Serma Island after interrogating suspects in the attack against a Seram police checkpoint back in May that left five policemen dead.

"We are checking whether the camp is still active or not. We have found some evidence such as flags and books," he said. The suspects told police they trained there on one occasion.

Police had previously discovered similar camps in the Poso where three Christian schoolgirls were decapitated last month and two other were shot in the head yesterday.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world, but in areas like Poso and the Maluku Islands Christians and Muslims are evenly split.

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