24 December 2006

Tens of Thousands of Police Guarding Indonesian Churches

By Ali Kotarumalos
Associated Press Writer

Sun, Dec. 24 2006 09:44 AM ET

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Tens of thousands of police deployed at churches across Indonesia Sunday amid warnings by Western nations that Islamic militants may be plotting Christmas bombings.

A member of Indonesian police Bomb Squad search a diorama depicting the birth of Christ for suspicious objects ahead of Christmas eve services at the main cathedral in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2006. Tens of thousands of police were deployed at churches across Indonesia on Sunday amid warnings by Western nations that Islamic militants may be plotting Christmas bombings.

U.S. Christians: Peace, Hope for Persecuted on Christmas Indonesian officials downplayed the alerts, which have become something of a tradition themselves since Christmas Eve bombings at churches across the country in 2000 killed 19 people.

U.S. embassies in Jakarta and Australia warned the threat of an attack over the holiday season was "serious" and "credible" and that foreigners could be targeted, though it did not say what the alert was based on.

"The Australians and the Americans can say what they want, that is democracy," said Indonesia's police spokesman Col. I Ketut Untung Yoga Ana. "But up until now, we have not seen any frightening signs."

Nevertheless, 18,000 officers have been deployed at churches in the capital, Jakarta and tens of thousands more will be on duty elsewhere in the sprawling nation, he said.

Bomb squad officers planned to search Jakarta's cathedral for bombs and Christmas Eve worshippers at major churches would be frisked before they entered, he said.

The United States and its regional ally, Australia, have long posted generic warnings that terrorists are plotting attacks in Indonesia, but they routinely issue fresh bulletins ahead of the holiday season.

The warnings are not based on intelligence of a specific threat, but rather reflect a general belief that attacks by Muslim extremists are more likely over Christmas.

Since the 2000 bombings, militants from the al-Qaida-linked Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah have staged four major attacks. The deadliest was the October 2002 nightclub bombings that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists. The last attack was more than 14 months ago.

Indonesian officials do not like the terror warnings, saying they hurt the country's economy by frightening tourists and are unfair given the global nature of terrorism.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation. About 10 percent of its 220 million people are Christian.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


07 December 2006

Indonesian Mother of Beheaded Christian Girl Forgives Killers

By The Associated Press

Thu, Dec. 07 2006 05:19 PM ET

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – The mother of one of three Christian girls beheaded last year on an Indonesian island wracked by religious violence said Wednesday that she has forgiven her daughter's killers.

Haderita Rongkohulu made the comments in testimony to the Central Jakarta District Court where the trial of Hasanuddin, 34, the alleged ringleader of three suspected
Islamic militants accused in the slayings, began last month.

Yarni Sambue, Haderita's daughter, was one of the three girls mutilated as they walked to school in Poso on Oct. 29, 2005. Haderita told the court that she learned of her daughter's death from a television report.

She said the three suspects had offered their apologies when she met them last month at the National Police Headquarters.

“I accepted their apologies. We have to forgive them for the sake of humanity,” Haderita said, adding that she harbors no hard feelings toward them.

Hasanuddin, who goes by one name, has said they killed the girls to avenge the massacre of Muslims in Poso, the scene of religious clashes that left at least 1,000 people dead from 1998 to 2002.

Two other defendants, Lilik Purnomo and Irwanto Irano, will be tried separately.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

04 December 2006

Indonesian Militant Sentenced to 4 Years Over Attack Targeting Church

By The Associated Press

Thu, Dec. 14 2006 05:02 PM ET

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - An Islamic militant was sentenced to four years in jail on Thursday for storing the explosives used in a botched 2001 bomb attack on a church
in Indonesia.

The blast went off in the lobby of a shopping mall in central Jakarta, wounding several people, but the intended target was a church located on the upper floor of the building, prosecutors have said.

Solahudin, who was identified by a single name, was found guilty of storing the explosives used in the blast and sentenced to four years, Presiding Judge Lies Sofiulah told the Central Jakarta District Court. His lawyers said they were considering appealing the verdict.

Solahudin, 30 was arrested in April during a raid on a suspected hide out of Noordin Top, an alleged Southeast Asian militant accused of organizing a host of attacks on
western targets in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings.

A Malaysian militant has already been sentenced to death and two Indonesians have been given life imprisonment for carrying out the attack targeting the church at the mall.

Testimony at their trial said the blast was intended as revenge for the deaths of Muslims in religious fighting in eastern Indonesia.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.