11/21/2005, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Christian couple shot at in Sulawesi

by Benteng Reges

The couple was leaving a religious function in Palu; they are now in hospital in critical condition. A policeman has been arrested, prime suspect in the machete killing of a 22-year-old girl on Friday, in the same area. According to national police, the spiraling violence is "orchestrated" by a "mafia" based either in Jakarta or in central Sulawesi.

Palu (AsiaNews) – Violence continues in Palu, the capital of the Indonesian province of central Sulawesi. This time, the victims were a Christian couple who were leaving a religious function in east Palu on Saturday (19 November). Meanwhile, the national police have issued a statement claiming that violence in Sulawesi is "orchestrated" by a mafia whose origins are not quite clear yet.

Armed men on a motorcycle shot at Pudji Laksono and his wife Novlin. Laksono, a local university lecturer of Javanese origin, was shot in the back and his wife in the chest. The Christian couple is currently in the central hospital of Palu, where they are under strict surveillance. Their condition is critical, so much so that they could not respond to questions posed by police.

Saturday's attack came a day after the killing – also in Palu – of a 22-year-old girl who was in the centre with her friends. The girl was wounded in the neck by a machete; she died, while her friend – who was unharmed – tried to take her to hospital. Over the weekend, the Palu security forces announced the arrest of a policeman, held to be Yanti's assassin: only his initials, WN, are known. The police internal affairs division arrested him after they found traces of blood on his vehicle.

The political authorities of Palu have condemned the recent wave of attacks: Andi Mulhanan Tombolotutu, of the local council of Palu, said criminals were directing their actions in other areas after failing to re-ignite inter-faith conflict in Poso. According to a press statement signed by the head of the national police, General Sutanto, the attacks in the zone were "orchestrated by an organized mafia". The head of police did not clarify whether the group hailed from Jakarta or from Sulawesi, The statement, read today in parliament during a meeting behind closed doors with Commission III – which tackles security problems – said the criminals have moved towards Palu because of the widespread presence of the forces of order in Poso.

At first, the recent escalation of violence in central Sulawesi targeted Poso, where three Christian girls were beheaded on 29 October. The Indonesian police were harshly criticized for their handling of the investigation; they confirmed the arrest of three suspects on 18 November, held to be responsible for the triple homicide, however they only released one name, that of 23-year-old Irfan Masuro, who works in the security section of the Poso central hospital. The police said they are investigating his possible involvement in the Sudarmanto case and that of a woman called Luisana, who allegedly helped Irfan to hide the murder weapon.

Poso has been the battleground of a bloody conflict between Christians and Muslims, which claimed more than 1000 lives between 2000 and 2001.

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