Skip to comments.11 Christians Killed over Two Days of Slaughter in Early October
Posted on 11/30/2003 11:07:16 AM PST by miltonim
Terror returned to Central Sulawesi as Muslim extremists attacked five Christian villages on 10 and 12 October. The raids, by far the worst for over a year, could augur another horrific wave of anti-Christian violence.
Just after midnight on Friday 10 October, several groups, each with seven or eight masked gunmen, attacked the village of Beteleme, 200km southeast of Poso in Central Sulawesi. Villagers still awake heard the attackers cry Allahu akbar (God is great) as they stormed in. During the brutal raid Mr Oster Tarioko, an employee of the state run electricity company, was shot and fatally wounded. Mrs W Mbai, a Sunday school teacher at the local Christian Church of Central Sulawesi, was gunned down as she opened her front door. A church elder, Mr L Kamalo, from the same church, is among those who were seriously injured; his arm was shattered by a gun blast and has been amputated in hospital at Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi. Mr Deki Lingkua is still in a critical condition in hospital at Tentena, the largest local Christian town, having suffered horrific stab wounds. Mr T Kambai, who was shot in the head is in Beteleme Public Health Clinic, along with many others.
Eye witnesses say there were children in each group of attackers, who had the job of setting fire to houses. Of the 38 homes destroyed, four belonged to Muslims, but this appears to have been a mistake. Why did you set fire to that house? demanded one of the leaders It belonged to one of us. Another called out, Dont burn this shop; we used to come here! At least some of the attackers were clearly local. After the house of a certain Mr Tibo had been torched, villagers heard the command given Stop! Times up! Tibo was one of the leaders of the Christian resistance against the Muslim attacks in 2000 and is now on death row in Palu. Mr Tibos men! Where are you? challenged the attackers as they burned his house down. We are not afraid of you, only of Allah, their words clearly indicating Tibos house had been singled out as a particular target. They then left, calling out Goodnight Beteleme as they disappeared into the jungle. Two hundred people have been left homeless and six are still missing. Also a church was totally gutted.
Exactly 48 hours later, on the morning of Sunday 12 October, there was a coordinated attack on four other villages, all near Poso. Nine Christians were either shot dead or hacked to death with machetes, one was found with his testicles and head barely attached to his body. In three of the villages the attackers entered houses looking specifically for men to kill; where there were none, they ruthlessly slaughtered anyone they found including a woman seven months pregnant and a six year old girl. Ten others are still in Poso Hospital with severe injuries.
A Barnabas Fund source in Central Sulawesi has indicated that the Islamic militants behind the attacks may have used the day release from prison of Rev Damanik, a prominent local Christian leader being held on charges widely considered to have been false, as an excuse to legitimise their attacks. Rev Damanik, with accompanying police escort, visited his ailing mother-in-law (who has subsequently died) in Tentena on 5 October. Shortly afterwards Islamic militants began to circulate bogus rumours that the real purpose for his trip was to organise Christian attacks on local Muslims. These false allegations may then have provided Islamic militants with the justification they required to launch their horrific pre-emptive attacks on the Christian villages.
Some Indonesian sources have revealed that the attackers were carrying weapons to which only the military should have had access. They believe the armed forces are manipulating events, backing Muslim attacks on Christians, hoping to create an escalation of violence which only they could remedy in an attempt to regain the political influence which they enjoyed under President Suharto.
As a result of the two attacks, many Christians have fled from the surrounding villages to the Christian town of Tentena; some of those fleeing had only just returned to their rebuilt homes after the appalling violence of two years ago. The attacks come barely a fortnight after two other incidents. On Sunday 28 September a bomb was discovered in a church in Tomata (150km southeast of Poso) shortly before the morning service and on 1 October a Christian convert from Islam was gunned down in broad daylight in Pandiri (20km south of Poso), by two assassins on a motorbike. Local Christians chased after the bike but were forced to abandon their pursuit when it entered a strongly Muslim area.
In recent days the media has quite rightly covered in detail the memorial services held in Indonesia to mark the first anniversary of the tragic Bali bombing in which some 200 people, mostly Westerners were killed. However the coverage by Western media of the incidents in Central Sulawesi in the past two weeks has been virtually nonexistent, even though 11 people were killed in the space of just two days. Likewise the main conflict in Poso between 1999 and 2001 received little coverage despite the fact that it claimed some 2000 lives.