02/11/2011, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Yudhoyono orders crackdown but officials drag their feet

by Mathias Hariyadi
Police arrest 13 people in connection with recent attacks against the Ahmadi minority and Christian churches. The president issues orders to local authorities to go after extremist entities. Civil society groups share the president’s views but security officials and agents drag their feet. Anti-Christian and anti-Ahmadi violence are related.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesian police arrested 13 people in connection with a series of recent confessional acts of violence that left three Ahmadi Muslims dead and three churches destroyed. President Susilo Bambang Yudoyono announced a crackdown against fundamentalist groups, who must be disbanded to prevent further sectarian attacks. Civil society groups have welcomed the president’s statement, but government officials and local authorities warn it will be hard to wipe out terrorist groups.

Police arrested five people involved in the murder of three members of the Ahmadi Muslim sect, deemed heretical my mainstream Muslims because it does not view Muhammad as the last prophet.

The attack took place last Sunday in West Java. Police were able to identify the attackers thanks to video that eventually found its way on the Internet. Banten Police spokesperson Gunawan Setiadi told the AFP that more arrests would follow thanks to images released on YouTube.

Two days later, fundamentalists targeted the Christian community in Temanggung (central Java). Police arrested eight people involved in the attack against three churches, an orphanage and Christian centre. A mob of about a thousand people attacked Christians and their property because of a case of alleged blasphemy involving a young man who was sentenced to five years in prison.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told local officials and authorities to clamp down on fundamentalists and stop sectarian violence. However, this will be hard to do because many top officials and ministers are dragging their feet on the matter.

On national press day in Kupang, the president issued orders to disband a number of notorious extremist groups. “Legal authorities should have the courage to disband public group or mass organisations which have repeatedly conducted or even suggested violence,” the president said. Local authorities and security officials should do their duty, he insisted.

Civil society groups have welcomed the president’s announcement. However, scepticism remains strong because of obstacles on the path of implementing presidential orders.

Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi said for example that dismantling such groups will not be an easy task.

Police chief General Timnor Pradopo, an acknowledged sympathiser of some extremist groups like the Islamic Defender Front (FPI), said that he will need evidence and facts of misbehaviour before taking action.

Even lawmakers, including some from the Democrat Party and United Development Party, blame Ahmadis for their predicament, saying that they must repent and acknowledge their errors. They also want the sect to be eliminated.

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