REUTERS, Saturday May 28, 2005 12:22 AM ET
Bomb blasts in Indonesian Christian town kill 19
By Dean Yates and Telly Nathalia
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Two bomb blasts ripped through a crowded market in a
Christian town in eastern Indonesia on Saturday, killing 19 people in an attack likely
to raise fears sectarian bloodshed could again break out in the region.
Police said the attacks occured in the lakeside town of Tentena, on the eastern island
of Sulawesi, part of an area where three years of Muslim-Christian clashes killed
2,000 people until a peace deal was agreed in late 2001.
Periodic unrest has flared since, but Saturday morning's attack is among the worst.
"There are already 19 people dead, that is the information we received from officials at
the scene," Sukirno, deputy police chief for Central Sulawesi province, told Reuters.
"The first bomb exploded in front of the Tentena market, the second explosion took
place about 15 minutes later."
He said around 20 people were wounded, including two police officers. Sukirno said
police were investigating what type of bombs were used in the attack and how they
El Shinta radio station said the second explosion was the stronger of the two.
"The market was packed. It lies in the heart of the town. Victims have been taken to
hospital," one unidentified caller told Indonesia's leading news radio station.
Much of the past Sulawesi violence focused on the town of Poso, which is about
1,500 km (900 miles) northeast of Jakarta. Picturesque Tentena, famous for its
churches and surrounded by clove-covered hills, lies 40 km (25 miles) to the south of
The Sulawesi conflict drew Muslim militants from groups such as the al Qaeda-linked
Jemaah Islamiah, a Southeast Asian network blamed for numerous bomb attacks
Some 85 percent of Indonesia's 220 million people are Muslim. But in some eastern
parts, Christian and Muslim populations are about equal in size.
The two explosions follow heightened warnings from Western governments about
terrorist attacks in the world's most populous Muslim nation, although few foreigners
venture to the Poso region because of its history of bloodshed.
On Thursday, the United States closed all its four diplomatic missions in Indonesia
because of a security threat.
Attacks against Western targets and blamed on Jemaah Islamiah include blasts at
Bali nightclubs in October 2002 that killed 202 people, mostly foreigners, and one last
September outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta that killed 10.
The Tentena bombings follow an attack by gunmen on a police post in the Moluccas
islands further to the east that killed five police this month.
The Moluccas islands, 2,300 km (1,440 miles) east of Jakarta, was also the scene of
vicious communal fighting between Muslims and Christians from 1999 to 2002 that left
more than 5,000 dead. A peace agreement was reached there in early 2002. (With
reporting by Gde Anugrah Arka)
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