Jihad Warriors in the Moluccas Burn Christian Village

CHRISTIAN SOLIDARITY WORLDWIDE
For immediate release
November 8 2001

FOUR Christians and an army officer are feared dead following a brutal
attack on a Christian village in the Moluccas islands of Indonesia.

More than a thousand villagers were forced to run for their lives to the
surrounding jungle as militant Jihad warriors burned their homes to the
ground.

The attack happened at Waemulang, the second largest Christian village on
Buru island, on November 1.

The villagers were attacked by a large militant force shortly after a visit
to the region by Jafar Umar Thalib, a leader of a militant Jihad
organisation (Laskar Jihad), which is largely held responsible for the
continuation of the conflict in Moluccas.

The security forces in Buru were outnumbered by the attackers who burned
most of the 350 houses. 

The local police authorities did radio for assistance and the Civil
Emergency authorities say that the military are deploying troops to drive
out the attackers who remain in the village.

Jafar Umar Thalib was able to travel freely to the region to give a number
of inflammatory speeches and to call for the continuation of the violent
attacks on Christian communities.

He also called for the introduction of Sharia law.

During a public speech at the main Moluccan mosque of Al-Fatah on October
23, which was broadcast on radio, he spoke out against those Muslims who
support reconciliation attempts reportedly stating that 'war would not be
over until Muslims could celebrate Idul Fitr [the feast at the end of
Ramadan] in Kudamati, Passo, Saparua and other Christian locations'.

Laskar Jihad, a militant organisation, currently has more than 3,000 jihad
militants in the Moluccas and claims to have over 10,000 'warriors' in the
country. The organisation has been behind most of the violence in the region
since they first arrived in the Moluccas in May 2000 attacking both
Christians and moderate Muslims.

It is estimated that more than 8,000 people have been killed in the violence
in the Moluccas since the conflict flared up two years ago.

Jafar Thalib, an Afghan veteran, acknowledges Laskar Jihad's links with
international Islamist movements although he denies any connection with
Osama Bin Laden and his network. According to sources in the region there
are at least 200 foreign jihad militants in Moluccas mostly from Afghan,
Pakistani and Malaysian backgrounds. 

Baroness Caroline Cox, President of CSW, who visited the island of Ambon in
July 2001, witnessed first-hand the arrival of seven foreign militants.

While local Muslims are reluctant to comment publicly concerning Jafar
Thalib's visit, privately they are unhappy about his presence, as his visits
have frequently resulted in an escalation of the violence. 

The Christians are understandably deeply distressed that he was allowed to
travel freely to the Moluccas and deliver inflammatory speeches which
clearly incited hatred.

Some experts suggest that this is the beginning of a nationwide campaign by
Laskar Jihad against Christian communities in Indonesia.

They suspect troops are being massed in order to attack Christian
communities either during or at the end of Ramadan using the resentment
among the Muslim population of Indonesia against the US-led bombing campaign
in Afghanistan to fuel the conflict. 

While these reports are unsubstantiated, the recent activities of the Laskar
Jihad are a cause for concern. The organisation has sent several hundred
militants to the neighbouring province of Sulawesi which has a sizeable
Christian minority and the violence has quickly escalated in that region. 

Unconfirmed sources in the Moluccas state that Mr. Thalib travelled to
Sorong (Irian Jaya) following his visit to the Moluccas. This is believed to
be his first visit to the region which together with the Moluccas, Sulawesi
and West Timor is one of the few areas in Indonesia which either has a
Christian majority or a sizeable minority.

The Indonesian authorities have made a number of attempts to curb the
activities of the Laskar Jihad in the past, including arresting Jafar Thalib
in May 2001.

He was released after 11 days following protests from prominent supporters
in the Government, illustrating Laskar Jihad's continuing support from
members of the military and the Government. 

Stuart Windsor, National Director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said:
"CSW is deeply concerned by the recent escalation of violence in the
Moluccas. We share the frustration of the Moluccan Christians and moderate
Muslims regarding the freedom with which this militant extremist
organisation is able to broadcast its message of hatred and violence and to
attack Christians and moderate Muslims in the Moluccas.
 
"Laskar Jihad is a violent, militant, terrorist organisation with
self-confessed links to international militant movements and Jafar Thalib's
previous visits to the region have frequently resulted in an escalation of
the violence. We urge the Indonesian authorities to take immediate action to
ensure known provocateurs such as Jafar Thalib are prevented from entering
the region. 

"We call on the Indonesian authorities to take strongest possible measures
against Jafar Thalib and the militant Laskar Jihad organisation particularly
in the light of its threat to now start attacking Christian communities in
Sulawesi and Irian Jaya."

For more information contact Richard Chilvers at Christian Solidarity
Worldwide on 020 8949 0587 or 020 8942 8810 or email
richard.chilvers@csw.org.uk

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