Indonesia attacks: Army hunts suspected militants over Christian murders

Children seen playing in Lemban Tongoa village on Sulawesi island two days after the gruesome attack
The deadly attack took place in remote Lemban Tongoa village on Sulawesi island

The Indonesian army has deployed a special force to hunt for suspected Islamic State-linked militants behind a deadly attack on Christians, four Salvation Army members were killed, one of them beheaded in an ambush on Sulawesi island on Friday.

Intolerance against Indonesia’s Christian minority has been rising as the Muslim-majority country battles an ongoing Islamic militancy. A church body denounced the killings as terrorism rather than a religious feud, a group of men wielding swords and guns attacked a Salvation Army outpost in remote Lemban Tongoa village in Central Sulawesi province on Friday morning. They killed four of it’s male Christian members, beheading one victim and burned down homes, including one used for prayers, the village leader and police told AFP news agency.

A BBC map showing the location of Sulawesi, an Indonesian island

Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, has long grappled with terror attacks, while Central Sulawesi has seen sporadic violence between Christians and Muslims over the years. On Tuesday the Indonesian military deployed a special force to join police in the hunt for last week’s attackers who authorities suspect come from the East Indonesian Mujahideen (MIT). The MIT is one of dozens of groups across Indonesia that have pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS).

The Salvation Army confirmed the killing of its members in a “savage attack” in a statement last week. “Our hearts go out to our people who have been victims of evil, and to the families of those whose faith have caused such harm,” it said. On Monday a spokesperson for the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, a key Christian body, urged Christians to remain calm and not to view the attack as a conflict of religion. “The victim can be anybody. Terrorism in any kind of shape or form is the enemy of all religion,” the spokesperson said.

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