Associated France Press (AFP) 29/10/2005
Three Christian schoolgirls beheaded in Indonesia
Three Christian teenage girls were beheaded in an assault that marks an escalation of the violence against non-Muslims in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi province.
The three high school students were found with their heads severed early Saturday in the sectarian-divided town of Poso, said provincial police spokesman Rais Adam.
The girls were believed to have been murdered while they walked to school, Adam said Saturday.
He said two of the victims' heads were found near a police post while the third was discovered outside a Christian church in Poso.
Muslim extremists have been linked to bombings, shootings and other attacks targeting Christians in the Poso area over the last two years but these appear to be the first recent beheadings.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono strongly condemned the beheadings, a tactic used periodically by insurgents in Muslim southern Thailand.
"I condemn this inhumane murder, whoever the perpetrators are and whatever their motives," the president was quoted as saying by Detikcom online news service.
Another teenage student girl was wounded in the attack, said national police spokesman Ariyanto Budiarjo.
But the girl, who was hacked in her upper chest, told police the killings were carried out by six men clad in black and wearing face masks.
Police earlier detained eight men after they refused to have their car searched at a checkpoint, said Budiarjo, but he would not say whether those men were connected to the killings.
Poso has seen several home-made bomb explosions in the past month which caused minimal damage and no casualties.
In May a pair of bomb attacks killed 22 people at a market in the neighbouring coastal town of Tentena.
Police said the Tentena bombings were the work of Islamic militants with possible links to Jemaah Islamiyah, which authorities say has some ties to Al-Qaeda. Others say the attack was politically motivated.
Authorities have linked JI to numerous deadly bombings elsewhere in Indonesia.
Last December a Christian priest was critically injured when unidentified attackers slashed him with machetes in Poso ahead of Christmas services, police said. On the same day south of the provincial capital Palu, to the west of Poso, two Christians died in a machete attack.
Among other violence last year was the assassination of a Christian prosecutor who handled terrorism cases in Palu.
In July last year gunmen sprayed bullets into a Palu church, killing a woman priest and injuring four other people.
In the worst bloodshed of 2003, armed gangs in October killed 10 people in attacks on mainly Christian villages.
A report last year by the International Crisis Group think-tank blamed many of the Christian deaths in Poso on Mujahidin KOMPAK, an outfit with loose affiliations to the Jemaah Islamiyah.
Budiarjo said security at checkpoints in and around Poso was tightened after the beheadings.
"We hope that the public will not be provoked by this incident because this is clearly an act of provocation," the police spokesman said.
Yudhoyono dispatched national police chief Sutanto and armed forces chief Endriartono Sutarto to Poso to "control the situation and hold dialogues" with local community leaders.
"Find and arrest the perpetrators and charged them with the existing law," Yudhoyono was quoted as saying.
Adam told AFP police were still trying to determine whether the case was religiously motivated.