Executions of 3 Christians spark violence

PALU, Central Sulawesi (AP): The execution of three Christian militants convicted of leading attacks that killed at least 70 Muslims six years ago sparked fresh sectarian violence in several areas in Central Sulawesi and East Nusa Tenggara.

Mobs torched cars and police posts in restive Sulawesi province. East Nusa Tenggara’s town of Atambua, security forces fired warning shots to disperse crowds who blockaded roads, looted Muslim-owned shops and burned a prison, freeing hundredsof inmates. Four people were reported injured.

On the island of Flores still in the province, the executed men’s birthplace, machete-wielding mobs ran through the streets, sending women and children running in panic, AP reported, citing police and witnesses.

Meanwhile, in Jakarta Vice President Jusuf Kalla appealed for calm, saying the deaths of the Roman Catholic men had nothing to do with religion.

“It’s a matter of law. The execution is nothing to do with religion,” he told reporters.

Fabianus Tibo, 60, Marinus Riwu, 48, and Dominggus da Silva, 42, were taken from their tightly guarded prison and executed at 1:45 a.m. local time (1745 GMT Thursday) on the southern outskirts of Palu, said I Wayan Pasek Suartha, a spokesman for the attorney general.

Hundreds of people in Atambua attacked a prison, causing the escape of 190 prisoners. Earlier, the mobs attacked Atambua Prosecutors’s Office and burned official house of the office head, located just next to the office. A car in the house was also burned during the incident.

“The prisoners escape because the mobs destroyed the main gate of the prison,” head of the Law and Human Rights office in East Nusa tenggara Soetomo Harardjo was quoted by Antara as saying Friday.

The executed men were found guilty of leading a Christian militia that launched a series of attacks in May 2000 – including a machete and gun assault on an Islamic school that left at least 70 men dead.

It was one of the most brutal attacks during sectarian violence that swept Sulawesi province from 1998 in 2002, killing more than 1,000 people from both faiths. A peace deal largely ended the bloodshed, though isolated attacks have continued.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday September 22, 2006.
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