10/29/2005, 00.00
INDONESIA

Indonesia: 3 Christian girls beheaded

Bandits beheaded the girls as they walked to school. One of the heads was left outside a church.  President Susilo has condemned the attack and the head of the police talked of "helpless victims".

Poso (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Three Christian girl students were beheaded this morning. The victims are Yusriani Sampoe aged 15 years, Theresia Morangke aged 16 and Alvita Polio aged 19. Another girl, Noviana Malewa, suffered serious facial injuries; she was admitted to hospital where she is being kept under strict surveillance. The girl will be an important witness to clarify the nature of the attack, perpetrated with sharp instruments as the girls walked to a private Christian school in Poso, central Sulawesi. The bodies were discovered at 7.30 local time (8.30 in Jakarta) near Bambu village. The head of one of the girls was left outside a Christian church in Kasiguncu village and another two near a police station around 10km away from the scene of the crime.

The state news agency Antara reported that the girls were attacked by unknown assailants as they covered the 9km distance between the school and their homes, dressed in uniform. Commissioner Oenggoeseno, head of the Sulawesi police, said the motive for the crime was not important given that the victims were completely helpless girls.

As soon as news of the attack reached President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, he cancelled all his appointments and called an urgent meeting with his security officials, including his vice-President, Jusuf Kalla, and heads of the army, police and intelligence. The president expressed his pressing concern about the tragedy: "I forcefully condemn these attacks against civilization and I call on the local people to collaborate with the government to guarantee a successful outcome of the investigations and to maintain security". He said police forces will be sent to maintain security and to prevent escalation of tensions. The attack has already served to increase tensions between Muslims and Christians. Poso is fertile terrain to trigger discord between the two communities; the latest incident highlights just how serious the situation is, given that the murders came only a few days before the Muslim festival of Idul Fitri (to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan), popularly known as "Lebaran". The long-drawn out conflict in Ambon, which has claimed thousands of victims, was ignited by clashes which broke out just a few days before Idul Fitri.

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