Tue, 30 May 2000

Three people injured as another blast rocks Medan

MEDAN, North Sumatra (JP): Another bomb blast rocked the North Sumatra capital early on Monday and injured three people, less than 24 hours after the explosion of one of three bombs planted at three different churches in the city.

The latest incident raises the specter of a spread in sectarian violence to North Sumatra, with President Abdurrahman Wahid and legislators quickly calling for calm and restraint.

Monday's blast destroyed the upmarket Marimar Restaurant on Jl. Pemuda, injuring three pedestrians, including a woman identified as Dewi.

All three are being treated at a nearby hospital.

An eyewitness named Ojek said he saw a car speeding back and forth on Jl. Pemuda before the explosion.

"It was about 4 a.m. when a person in the car threw something in front of the restaurant. Seconds later a big explosion was heard. That's all," Ojek told The Jakarta Post.

Local residents jolted from their sleep rushed out to find out what happened. "I thought it was a thunderbolt, but when I opened my room window the weather was fine. I quickly linked the big bang to the previous bomb blast in the church," Lina, a resident of the street, said.

Police have yet to determine any link between Monday's explosion and the blast which hit a Protestant church on Sunday, injuring 47 members of the congregation.

The explosion, which police believe was a homemade bomb, occurred during a service at the Indonesian Protestant Church.

Police also discovered an explosive device on Sunday at the Batak Protestant Church (HKBP) on Jl. Sudirman. Another bomb was found minutes later at Christ the King Church on Jl. MT Haryono.

Marimar Restaurant is located not far from Jl. Sudirman and Jl. MT Haryono.

Local figures from all major religions issued a joint statement deploring the incident.

"We the Honorary Council of the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI), Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI), Indonesian Buddhist Community (Walubi), Indonesian Central Council for Dharma Hinduism (PHDI) and the Catholic Diocese call on Medan residents not to be provoked by any attempts to disrupt unity," they said on Sunday.

They also demanded the government take expedient and appropriate actions to uncover the cause of the violence.

A total of 42 youth and religious-based organizations in North Sumatra condemned the perpetrators of the attacks.

Meanwhile in Jakarta, President Abdurrahman expressed deep concern during a meeting with church leaders.

"The President deplored the incident," Eka Dharmaputra, one of Protestant church leaders, said after meeting with the President at Bina Graha presidential office.

The President is also confident the bombing will not provoke further interfaith conflicts, said Eka.

Separately, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) chairman Hasyim Muzadi urged the government to set up a joint investigation team, which would involve leaders of different religions, to probe the Medan incidents.

"By involving the religious leaders, we will be able to convince people this incident has nothing to do with religious hatred," Hasyim told journalists.

Meanwhile legislators in Jakarta on Monday called for immediate preventive measures to ease the situation in Medan anticipating an outbreak of religious strife in the province following two days of successive bomb attacks.

Without specifying, legislators believed that the attacks were premeditated and carried out by a well-organized network.

House of Representatives (DPR) Speaker Akbar Tandjung said that there was strong suspicion the bombings in Medan were purposely done in order to precipitate religious and ethnic tension and to escalate violence.

Without elaborating, Akbar noted that "certain groups" were launching these attacks to incite further unrest.

"There are people who keep trying to create tension amongst the people," Akbar told reporters on Monday.

"We all have to learn from the clashes in Maluku, and other incidents, that many people want to create chaos. We have to be aware of that and not be provoked with such incidents," Akbar said.

"I ask religious leaders to please try and encourage peace and tolerance among the faithful," Akbar added.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) also expressed concern that the bomb attacks could lead to wider unrest considering the fragile security conditions.

PDI Perjuangan deputy chairman Arifin Panigoro said the government and the police should take concrete preventive measures before the incident creates an open conflict between the Christians and the Muslims like the strife we've seen in Maluku and North Maluku.

"The nation will certainly experience a terrible setback if a religious conflict explodes in North Sumatra," he told said on Monday.

He said the House should immediately hold a hearing with the National Police chief to seek an effective means of avoiding an outbreak of religious fighting in the province.

He said it was impossible to deny that the incident in Medan was unrelated to recent incidents in Jakarta and Maluku and that a well-organized network had been behind it.(dja/rms/39/sur)