Muslims retaliate after Indonesian mosque bombing
April 20, 1999
JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Hundreds of Muslims chanting "God is great" burned a Christian building in eastern Indonesia after the bombing of the national mosque in the capital, police and witnesses said Tuesday.
"I strongly condemn the barbaric and brutal act," said President B.J. Habibie of the mosque attack.
He called it an attempt to sabotage the June 7 parliamentary elections when Indonesians, who have known little but autocratic rule, will experience their first democratic poll in more than 40 years.
No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing, in which three men were injured.
Hours after Monday's bombing of Jakarta's Istiqlal Mosque, a mob of 1,000 went on the rampage in the eastern city of Ujung Pandang, setting fire to a church complex.
"It was a spontaneous act after people watched TV about the bombing of Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta," Brigadier Mudji Santoso, Ujung Pandang's police chief said in Jakarta. Eleven people had been detained for questioning, he said.
Police in Ujung Pandang said the situation in the city in south Sulawesi, 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) east of Jakarta, was tense, with Muslims stopping vehicles to search for Christians.
"Around 100 people are still blocking the streets and checking people's IDs. They are searching for Christians. I don't know what they are going to do with them," one said.
Indonesians must declare their religion on their identification cards. Most are Muslims, forming the world's largest Islamic community.
But Christians, who include many of the country's ethnic Chinese, make up Indonesia's most economically successful minority. The Chinese in particular have long been the target of attacks from poorer segments of society.
Ethnic and religious violence has escalated in the past year, driven by the worst economic and political turmoil in 30 years, which has thrown millions out of work and into poverty.
Hundreds have died this year alone in Christian-Muslim clashes in Indonesia's eastern spice islands, and there have been outbreaks of savage communal violence in several other parts of the country.
The military has been accused of supporting atrocities by pro-Jakarta militias in the disputed territory of East Timor, the former Portuguese colony where Indonesia's 23-year rule has never been recognized by the United Nations.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who is to meet with Habibie next week to discuss the escalating violence in East Timor, said only Indonesia can stop that conflict.
"There's a lot of wild talk about what can or can't be done, but the bloodshed can only be stopped by the Indonesian government and the Indonesian armed forces," Howard told Australian radio on Tuesday.
Howard, who will meet Habibie on April 27 on the Indonesian island of Bali, said talk of sending a U.N. peacekeeping force into the former Portuguese colony was premature.
Indonesia said in January it would consider independence for the territory if its people rejected an offer of autonomy in a referendum. Portugal and Indonesia could finalize a U.N.- mediated agreement Thursday regarding the proposed July vote.
Blast rocks Indonesian mosque
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