Islamic militants kill 50 Christians in raid on Indonesian island

FROM CATHERINE PHILP IN JAKARTA
May 31 2000 

At least 50 Christian villagers were massacred yesterday in a pre-dawn raid
by Islamic militants on the island of Halmahera in Indonesia's strife-torn
northern Moluccas. 

More than 100 others were injured in the raid, believed to have been
carried out by Laskar Jihad, a self-styled army of Islamic "warriors" who
have recently arrived from Java to wage a "holy  war" against the Christian
community. 

Father Biso, a local priest, described how the raiders threw grenades and
fired a hail of bullets through the windows of the houses of the sleeping
villagers. "Most of the victims were injured by bomb shrapnel and
gunshots," he said. "Houses were also burnt and many died in their sleep." 

Mr Biso added that the villagers were afraid to turn to the security forces
for protection because they suspected them of complicity in the raid: "The
people are desperate. Do those attackers wish to wipe out all Christians
from the island? Who else can help us?" 

Brigadier-General Max Tamaela, the region's military commander, said that
the attack had been launched from the nearby island of Ternate, a
stronghold of Muslim militancy. His statement was confirmed by an Islamic
activist on the island, who said that three Muslims were killed and seven
injured when the Christian villagers had retaliated. 

The raid was similar to one last week on another Christian village which
left 34 dead. Identity cards on the bodies of two dead Muslim attackers
indicated that they came from Sumatra, 2,000 miles away. This is being
taken as proof that the Laskar Jihad was responsible. 

Brigadier-General Tamaela said that his troops were unable to halt
attackers arriving by sea. "We badly need backup from the navy on this," he
added. 

More than 2,200 Laskar Jihad warriors are reported to have reached the
Moluccas after undergoing military training. The authorities were unable to
stop them because they were unarmed and apparently collected weapons which
had been shipped separately. 

"We are overburdened with problems here," the general said. "Why are they
allowed to enter?"

 


Return to Project Open Book