Sat, 03 Apr 2004

Authorities blamed over Poso attacks

Ruslan Sangadji, The Jakarta Post, Palu, Central Sulawesi

Christian and Muslim leaders in Poso regency, Central Sulawesi, lamented on Friday that local security forces had been unable to prevent renewed attacks blamed on mysterious gunmen in the religiously divided regency.

"We regret the security personnel's inability to detect the presence of certain groups, which still threaten the lives of people in Poso," said Noldy Tacoh, the Crisis Center secretary of the Central Sulawesi Christian Church (GKST).

Poso's Muslim Forum coordinator Burhan S. Adu, similarly criticized the police.

He condemned the perpetrators of the attacks, whom he said continued to spread hatred in Poso, where Muslim and Christian residents had begun to unite following the 2001 peace accord.

"We see that they are provocateurs, so the police must immediately capture them and punish them severely," Burhan added.

Last Tuesday, gunmen fatally shot Reverend Freddy Wuisan in the chest in Tomura village, Poso Posisir subdistrict. Hours later Rosia Pilongo, the 36-year-old dean of the school of law at Sintuwo Maroso University (Unsimar), was shot on the university's campus. She was badly injured, but her health is reportedly improving.

The shooting incidents followed Saturday's attack, in which a villager in Kawua, Jhon Christian Tanalida, was killed.

Speaking in Tentena, a mainly Christian subdistrict of Poso, Tacoh said church followers would not take revenge over the recent attacks.

"We have appealed to our congregation not to be provoked by the shooting incidents. We believe the attacks were an attempt by certain groups to stir unrest," he said.

Security in Tentena remained under control on Friday with Christians and others carrying out their daily activities as usual. The traditional market was busy, while the number of commuters was steady and traffic flow smooth.

Meanwhile, Poso Police Sintuwu Maroso Operation chief Sr. Comr. M. Rum said on Friday that one of the five witnesses questioned over the fresh attacks had officially been declared a suspect.

For the sake of the investigation, he declined to name the suspect, whom he said was being intensively questioned.

Earlier on Thursday, Central Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Taufik Ridha had identified the 24-year-old suspect by his initial "R".

The suspect, reportedly from Gebang Rejo neighborhood in Poso Kota subdistrict and of Arab descent, was arrested on Tuesday night.

Taufik said the number of suspects could increase, following reports from locals who saw several gunmen in the incidents.

He said around 200 more police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) personnel would be sent to Poso to help provide tight security ahead of the April 5 legislative election.

Some 100 Brimob officers from Jakarta arrived in Poso on Wednesday, where they will be posted in several locations.

Peace was largely restored in Poso after local Muslim and Christian leaders signed a government-brokered peace pact in 2001 to end two years of clashes from 2000, which left some 2000 people dead and thousands of others forced to flee.

But sporadic attacks have since hit the town, shattering peace and security there.