May 31, 2000
volume 11, no. 101

NEWS for Wednesday, May 31, 2000

    At least 44 people were killed on Monday when members of a Muslim jihad group attacked a Christian village in North Maluku in Indonesia, an army spokesman said on Tuesday.

    Lt. Col. Sukarwo said the militants attacked a village on Halmahera island, killing 44 and injuring 102 in a pre-dawn raid. A local priest, Father Hadi, said at least 52 were killed, many while they slept, and 300 houses were burned. Reports from the provincial capital, Ambon, said 17 people were killed there on Tuesday.

    Over the past two years, thousands of people have been killed and injured in fighting between mainly Protestant Christians and Muslims in the area also known as the Spice Islands. Although Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, Christians make up a majority in the Malukus.

    The region had been relatively quiet until earlier this month when more than 2,000 Islamic volunteer fighters belonging to an extremist paramilitary group entered the area to wage a holy war, despite government pledges to keep them out. About 34 people were killed in a similar raid on another village earlier this month.

    Sukarwo said the military believes the attackers came from a neighboring island and were members of a Muslim fighting force known as Lasker Jihad, or Holy War Troops. The group's leader, Jafar Umar Thalib, has vowed to wage a holy war against the Christian community.

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