The girls’ severed heads were dumped in plastic bags in their village in Indonesia’s strife-torn Central Sulawesi province, along with a handwritten note threatening more such attacks.
The note read: “Wanted: 100 more Christian heads, teenaged or adult, male or female; blood shall be answered with blood, soul with soul, head with head.”
Javanese trader Hasanuddin appeared in Jakarta Central Court yesterday charged with planning and directing the murders in October last year. He faces a death sentence if found guilty under anti-terrorism legislation.
Hasanuddin allegedly returned from a visit to members of Philippines Islamist group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front with tales of how that organisation regularly staged bombings to coincide with Lebaran, the festival that ends the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. He later spoke with a preacher in Poso, Central Sulawesi, about whether such a plan could work in Indonesia, but expressed doubt about whether it was appropriate.
However, after further discussion with friends, he decided that beheading Christians could qualify as an act of Muslim charity.
Conscripting several accomplices at a local pesantren, or Islamic school, he directed one of them, Lilik Purnomo, to seek out “the head of a Christian”, prosecutors alleged.
“It would be a great Lebaran trophy if we got a Christian. Go search for the best place for us to find one,” Hasanuddin allegedly ordered his companion.
Lilik returned to say he had found an “excellent” target – a group of schoolgirls who travelled to and from class by foot in the Central Sulawesi village of Gebong Rejo. The village is in the district of Poso, where hundreds of people have died in sectarian violence in recent years.
Many observers worry that Central Sulawesi has become the latest battleground in a deadly jihad.
Three Christian men were executed there last month for their role in a massacre of Muslims in 2000 and there have been a series of deadly attacks in the province in recent months.
Prosecutors yesterday detailed how Hasanuddin, Lilik and co-accused Irwanto Irano planned the schoolgirl beheadings with six other men. They prepared six machetes and black plastic bags for carrying off the severed heads and spent several days surveying the area where the students regularly passed by.
The operation was called off on one occasion, when a woman spotted the attackers hiding by the roadside, waiting for their victims. On the night before the attack, Lilik told Hasanuddin: “I hope you are ready to receive your Lebaran gift.”
The attack was launched the following morning, but only four of the six targeted girls appeared.
Lilik, directing the attack from a nearby hill, told his accomplices to act quickly so that the remaining two girls could still be killed should they appear behind their friends.
The attackers cleanly beheaded three of the students but a fourth, Noviana Malewa, escaped after a struggle and ran away screaming. Her attackers gave chase but were unable to catch her.
The bodies, dressed in school uniform, were left by the roadside near the execution site, but the heads were carried in a backpack to Hasanuddin.The trial of his two co-accomplices was adjourned until Wednesday, when Hasanuddin will also reappear.
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