Accessibility links

Breaking News

Indonesian Police Seek IS-linked Suspects in Deadly Attack 



Four people have been killed in an attack on a remote community in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province, and police are searching for suspects believed to be members of a group associated with Islamic State.

Authorities said four residents died and six houses were burned, including a house that was used as a place of worship by a church congregation.

Central Sulawesi Police Chief Abdul Rakhman Baso told VOA on Saturday that the incident took place Friday in Lembatangoa village, in Sigi, Central Sulawesi, around 9 a.m. local time. He said one victim was decapitated and another was burned to death.

Based on witness statements, investigators think eight members of the East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) carried out the assault.

“I condemn this barbaric and inhumane action. I hope our community is not provoked by this. Our police will provide security to them. It is a purely barbaric act of the MIT terrorist group,” the chief added.

He also said security forces were pursuing the perpetrators. “Two of them have long-barreled and short-barreled firearms,” he said.

Police were trying to maintain security in the area while healing the trauma of the attack.

In the capital, Jakarta, Indonesian National Police spokesman Awi Setiyono told reporters, “We're on the ground now. There are about 100 personnel chasing them.”

Shootings in Parigi Moutong

The motive for the attack was not clear, but two suspected terrorists were shot dead recently in Parigi Moutong in Central Sulawesi during an arrest by National Police Special Detachment 88 and the Tinombala Task Force.

“At the time of the arrest, the two suspects fought back, and we took firm and measured action, which resulted in the death of the two suspects,” police said during a November 17 news conference, confirming the deaths.

Officials did not comment on a possible connection between the two incidents.

The chief of Lembatangoa village, Deki Basalolu, told VOA that at least 150 families had fled to another village.

“All people in our village, around 150 head of families, have left,” Deki said. “Local government and local police helped them reach a safer area around four kilometers from Lembatangoa, and their basic needs such as food, et cetera, [were being met].”

The SETARA Institute for Democracy and Peace, a leading rights group that focuses on freedom of religion and expression, told VOA that it condemned the attack and urged the Tinombala Task Force "to optimize the hunting of dozens of MIT members, who are still roaming the forest and mountains around Central Sulawesi. The terrorist group cannot be underestimated, let alone considered weak.”

Tinombala’s operations have recently been extended to December 31.

The SETARA Institute also stressed that “terrorism and violent extremism have no religion. Therefore, we encourage interfaith leaders to jointly condemn violence used by certain groups in the name of religion.”

Parliament urges probe

The Indonesian parliament strongly condemned the deaths and urged the Indonesian government to investigate the case thoroughly.

“I’m really concerned about this incident and strongly condemn the barbaric murder and the burned-down houses, including the one that was used for a Christian service,” Herman Hery, chairman of the Commission on Law, Human Rights & Security, told reporters in Jakarta.

The East Indonesia Mujahideen is one of dozens of radical groups in the Southeast Asia archipelago that have pledged allegiance to IS. Indonesia has struggled with Islamic militancy and terror attacks, including in Central Sulawesi, where Christians and Muslims has been involved in violence based on religion.

Yoanes Litha contributed to this report.