More Violence in Sulawesi
Over 2,000 people evacuated

The Straits Times (Singapore)
August 8, 2002 Thursday

By Marianne Kearney

JAKARTA - Violence has erupted again in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi province
just as Mr Yusuf Kalla, the chief welfare minister and architect of two peace
deals in the strife-torn eastern islands, said the worst was over in these
regions.

A few Christian villages in Poso, Sulawesi, had come under attack since last
weekend, reports said.

At least 2,100 people were evacuated from Matako and several other villages
after an attack by groups of white-robed youths in the early hours of Sunday,
said the Christian Crisis Centre in Tentena. No casualties were reported. Then
on Tuesday, a group of nine men arrived, shooting at random and throwing
Molotov cocktails in another attack on the village of Malitu, said police
spokesman Adjunct Senior Commissioner Agus Sugianto. Several houses caught fire
but no one was hurt, he said.

About 500 people fled from the village, according to aid groups.

The attacks seemed to contradict Mr Yusuf's statement on Tuesday that sectarian
conflicts in the eastern Moluccas and nearby Sulawesi islands were cooling
down.

'The worst is over. There have been many explosions, but people are calm and
there is no more frontal tension,' said the minister who spearheaded the Malino
agreement, a peace deal signed last December between the warring factions in
Central Sulawesi, and an Ambon peace agreement signed last April.

Police have confirmed the attacks but refused to say whether Laskar Jihad, the
Java-based Muslim militant group which has established a presence here, was
involved.

A non-government group, the Human Rights Advocacy and Legal Studies Institute
(LPS-HAM), also confirmed the attacks but said the identity of the attackers or
their motives could not be established.

An aid worker blamed the escalation of violence on the local authorities'
failure to expel the Laskar Jihad and to prosecute the local culprits in the
recent attacks.

'The incidents are never solved,' she said. 'There is a mysterious sniper or a
bomb goes off but these are never investigated and solved.'

The number of violent incidents had been increasing steadily since June when
the military reduced the number of troops in Central Sulawesi, she added.

Military and police also appear unwilling to crack down and arrest youths
stirring the violence in the wake of attacks, according to LPS-HAM
investigators.

They said there were 16 soldiers stationed in Matako at the time of the attack
but they failed to stop it.

Some, however, blame the re-emergence of the conflict on the government's
failure to enforce the Malino pact.

'We don't agree with Malino because the government violates it all the time,'
said Mr Arsarson Panjitti, from the investigation team at the Christian Crisis
Centre.

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