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Explosion in Tense Indonesian Province Kills 8


At least eight people have been killed and 45 wounded in Indonesia after a bomb went off in a market area used by Christians in the restive province of Central Sulawesi. The attack happened in the early morning Saturday, at a kiosk crowded with people buying pork for the New Year celebrations. Central Sulawesi has a bloody history of religious violence between Muslims and Christians.

The explosion occurred at seven o'clock Saturday morning, when the market in the city of Palu was crowded. Among the dead are the husband and wife couple who ran the stall. They were selling pork, which is forbidden to Muslims, but is popular among Christians preparing for the New Year's celebrations.

Brigadier General Oegroseno was on the scene and spoke to local Metro TV. The general says it was a bomb and is under investigation.

The area has been cordoned off, and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has sent the chief of police to the area to supervise the operation personally.

Palu is the mostly Christian capital of the mostly Muslim province of Central Sulawesi - where religious tensions erupted into widespread bloodshed five years ago killing some 2,000 people.

A cease-fire brokered in 2001 calmed the situation, but violence has continued to simmer. In May, a bomb in the Christian town of Tentena killed 22, and in October three schoolgirls were beheaded.

The well respected Brussels-based International Crisis Group, I.C.G., which studies global conflicts - says many Islamic militants who were involved in the violence five years ago are still in the area.

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population and a secular government. But the I.C.G. warns these militants still dream of establishing an Islamic bastion in Sulawesi, which they can use as a launching pad for turning Indonesia into an Islamic state.

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