|Thousands in anti-Christian riot
|Churches, businesses, homes ransacked|
January 30, 1997 JAKARTA, Indonesia (Reuter) -- Thousands of Muslims burned and wrecked churches, temples and homes east of Jakarta on Thursday after news spread that a Christian had insulted Islam, officials and witnesses said. "The rampage was sparked by a Chinese woman who scolded a number of youths for being too noisy," said Dadang Muchtar, the head of the Karawang regency, at a news conference. Dadang said the youths were beating drums to wake Muslims in the neighborhood early Thursday so they could eat before fasting through the day. The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan ends at sunset on February 8. The mob ransacked at least five churches, a Chinese temple, scores of businesses and two homes in the small town of Rengasdengklok about 30 miles (50 km) from the capital Jakarta. At least 16 cars were also set ablaze. There were no immediate reports of injuries. Four people were arrested, including the Chinese woman who police said sparked the unrest, Dadang said. He gave no other details. 'Came with petrol' Witnesses said the town was quiet but tense after troops and riot police moved in to patrol the streets. The troops set up road blocks on main streets and warned citizens to stay away from the restricted area. Smoke billowed into the sky. The caretaker of a Pentecostal church that burned down described what happened: "They came in two groups. The first group came and wrecked the place. The second group came with petrol and burned it." He said his home and the pastor's house behind the church were ransacked and wrecked. Eyewitnesses said the mob, shouting "God is Greatest," attacked the churches in the morning. "They smashed the windows, music instruments and also the Bible," said one church attendant whose church was damaged. A number of shops were also damaged and looted, including a jewelry store that was emptied after its door was smashed in. The owners of some homes and shops wrote "Muslim, don't touch" on walls to protect them. Members of the mob countered by scrawling graffiti on walls that said: "Muslim power," "Long live Islam," and "Destroy the Chinese." Ethnic Chinese, a number of whom are Christians and are regarded as more wealthy in their neighborhoods, are frequently targets of mob violence in Indonesia. Last month, four people died when a mob went on a rampage in the town of Tasikmalaya in West Java, setting fire to shops, buildings and churches. That riot was sparked by reports of police brutality toward a Muslim religious teacher.
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