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Bombs Explode at Churches in Indonesia - 2002-01-01

A series of explosions has shaken four churches and injured three people on Indonesia's Sulawesi Island, while a grenade blast killed a man on New Year's Day in the capital, Jakarta. Bombs exploded simultaneously outside three churches in the Central Sulawesi town of Palu just before midnight, as New Year's Eve revelers celebrated in the streets.

The blasts injured one person and shattered church windows and gates. A fourth bomb exploded during a New Year's Day service in Palu, seriously injuring two policemen trying to defuse the device. Palu police chief Brigadier General Andi Zainal Ishak says the explosions were an attempt to spread more violence in the province, which has been wracked by sporadic fighting between Christians and Muslims during the past two years. The blasts ended several weeks of calm in Palu as both Christians and Muslims have celebrated religious holidays without incident. Last month, Christian and Muslim leaders signed a government-sponsored peace agreement to end the violence, which has claimed more than 1,000 lives. Although around 85 percent of Indonesians are Muslim and only five percent are Christian, both religions are equally represented in Central Sulawesi. The blasts occurred despite a heavy security presence in the province, aimed at heading off a repeat of last year, when bombs exploded on Christmas Eve outside churches in Jakarta and elsewhere in Indonesia. Nineteen people died in those attacks. Indonesia is battling religious, ethnic, and separatist violence in several provinces. Security has been stepped up to ward off further conflict during the Christmas and Muslim Eid al-Fitr celebrations. In an apparently unrelated incident, a grenade blast killed one man in Jakarta early Tuesday outside a shopping and entertainment center. Police are investigating whether the grenade was thrown at the man or if he was carrying it.