10/31/2005, 00.00
INDONESIA

Poso: Police search for teenagers' killers

Those guilty of the terrible beheadings of three young Christian girls have not been tracked down as yet. Meanwhile, Poso residents are preparing for celebrations to mark Eid al-Fitr.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Police are searching for clues to lead them to the identity of killers who beheaded three young Christian girls aged 15,16 and 19 years. The crime, described by the pope as "barbaric", has served to heighten tension in the area, for years plagued by violence. The areas of greatest friction are the predominantly Muslim city of Poso and the Christian city of Tentena.

Police said they interrogated many people over the three homicides but they have not managed to track the killers as yet. The attack was likely conducted by not more than six people dressed in black and armed with machetes. Soenarko Artanto, vice spokesperson of the national police told El Shinta radio that a fourth adolescent who survived the attack was questioned but she was unable to supply further details.

Meanwhile, more than 1000 police officers have arrived to guarantee security, although the police presence on the island was already formidable. And residents of Poso go ahead with preparations for the greatest feast on the Islamic calendar: Eid al-Fitr, celebrated on 3 November to mark the end of Ramadan. Iskandar Adam, a police official said: "Markets are open as usual and they are quite packed because Eid al Fitr is near and Poso is quite safe, everything is normal".

Between 1998 and 2001, when a cease-fire was signed, clashes between Christians and Muslims in Poso region claimed 2,000 lives. Sporadic attacks continued even after 2001, like a bomb blast in Tentena market last May which killed 22 people.

In Indonesia around 85% of the population is Muslim, however in some parts of the east, Christians and Muslims balance out. Most Indonesian Muslims would be moderate, however in recent years there has been an increase in military activity of small fundamentalist groups.

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