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Friday, November 11, 2005

SCHOOLGIRL DIES AFTER BEING SHOT IN INDONESIA
Her Death Heralds New Round Of Muslim Anti-Christian Violence

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

SU (ANS) -- One schoolgirl has died and another lies seriously injured after being shot in Poso on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that Siti Nuraini, 17, a Muslim, died in Poso Kota general hospital on November 9. Her Christian friend Ivon, also 17, remains in a critical condition after the attack on November 8.

CSW says the attack closely follows the beheading of three Christian schoolgirls on October 29 and represents a further escalation of the situation. Ida Sambue and Theresa, both 16, and Alfita, 18, were on their way to a Christian school they attend with 150 other children when they were attacked. A fourth girl, Noviana, 16, was left seriously injured.

According to CSW, the heads of the girls were reportedly found separately inside plastic bags, with a warning written on them that another 100 Christian teenagers would be killed. It is feared that this latest shooting is linked to the fulfillment of this threat.

The Reverend Rinaldy Damanik, Moderator for the Central Sulawesi Christian Reform Church, and Chairman of the Central Sulawesi Churches Crisis Co-ordination Centre is currently in the United Kingdom on a speaking tour with CSW.

Damanik has been in close touch with Christians and government officials in Sulawesi and has appealed for calm. He stressed the security officials needed to act promptly to ensure those guilty of the attacks are brought to justice and also to try and prevent further attacks.

He said: "I am very upset by this further violence. A very, very bad situation is getting worse. This attack is part of the militants' efforts to provoke further violence. I urge the UK government to realize this is not just a religious matter, but an attack on human rights."

As reported in the Jakarta Post, Presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng said the President had ordered the security forces to bring the perpetrators to justice, and urged residents not to launch revenge attacks.

Meanwhile, Army Chief of Staff General Djoko Santoso confirmed that the Indonesian Military (TNI) had apprehended five men who were believed to be the perpetrators of the beheadings. The Jakarta Post also reported that by the end of October, there was a total 3,500 police and army personnel stationed in Central Sulawesi after extra numbers were drafted in.

Tina Lambert, CSW's Advocacy Director, said: "It is clear this latest attack on an innocent schoolgirl is designed to provoke further religious violence on Sulawesi. CSW adds its voice to Rev Damanik's in calling for calm in the face of such an appalling incident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have lost their daughter. We urge the Indonesian government to do more to protect the innocent and prevent a return to widespread inter-religious violence."

BACKGROUND TO MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN VIOLENCE

Some 2,000 people lost their lives in inter-religious clashes on Sulawesi in 2000.

A peace agreement signed in December 2001 brought an end to the worst of the conflict, but sporadic attacks -- most of them against Christians -- have continued.

According to news agency Compass Direct, more troops arrived in Poso on November 3. This was in the wake of the discovery of a homemade bomb being found near the home of a local government official. The bomb was defused by a police bomb squad.

Another bomb was placed on a minibus traveling from Palu to Poso on October 27, reports Compass Direct. The bomb exploded, seriously injuring a 54-year-old man who was admitted to hospital for treatment for first- and second-degree burns. Other passengers were treated for minor injuries. Police said the bomb was a low-explosive device, filled with shrapnel for maximum impact. The minibus was owned by a Christian, being named "Omega."

CSW is a human rights organization which specializes in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.
For more information, please contact Richard Chilvers, Communications Manager at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on 020 8329 0045 or email
richard.chilvers@csw.org.uk  or visit www.csw.org.uk
** Michael Ireland is an international British freelance journalist. A former reporter with a London newspaper, Michael is the Chief Correspondent for ASSIST News Service of Garden Grove, California. Michael immigrated to the United States in 1982 and became a US citizen in September, 1995. He is married with two children. Michael has also been a frequent contributor to UCB Europe, a British Christian radio station.

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