Two Bombs Kill Christians in Tentena, Indonesia

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Documents reveal plot to carry out more attacks throughout the country.

by Sarah Page

DUBLIN, May 31 (Compass) -- Two bombs, timed to inflict the greatest possible damage, exploded in a refugee village for Christians in Tentena, Indonesia, on Saturday morning, killing 21 people and injuring 49.

The first bomb exploded at around 8:15 a.m., May 28, in the crowded morning market. As friends and family members came running to assist the injured, a second bomb exploded near the market entrance.

At press time, 21 were confirmed dead. Some reports said as many as 49 were injured.

Tentena is located in Poso district, Central Sulawesi. Since the late 1990s, Muslim and Christian communities there and in Northern Sulawesi have experienced periods of extreme violence followed by an uneasy peace. Over 1,000 people perished in the conflict before the Malino I Peace Accord was signed in December 2001. Observers believe the latest attack could stir up renewed fighting in the province.

One local source reported that the telephone service in Tentena was cut off immediately after the explosions. “This made the situation even worse, as the telephone service, provided by the government telephone company, is the only means of communication.”

“Also, there are only two ambulances in the town of Tentena, and with the number of people in need of immediate treatment, this caused even more stress in an already panicked situation.”

Among those killed was Berni Tungkanan, 31, who died in the first explosion.

Berni Tungkanan’s father, Paulus Tungkanan, was once the commander of a Christian militia in Sulawesi. However, he gave up his position and became an advocate for peace in 2001, around the time that the Malino Peace Accord was signed.

The Rev. Rinaldy Damanik also lives in Tentena. A week before the explosion, he spoke with visitors about the current situation in Sulawesi and said he was optimistic about the future. However, the twin explosions over the weekend will almost certainly provide a setback for the reconciliation process between communities whose divisions run deep.

Another source in Tentena commented, “Many believe this terrorist act is linked to the election for the Bupati or district head of Poso.” Poso has been predominantly Christian since the district was divided into two parts, but many Muslims object to the division.

The bombing may also be linked to an earlier attack in West Sulawesi on April 24. According to a report in the Jakarta Post, the attack on Ranu sub-district in the predominantly Christian regency of Mamasa that left four people dead, led to the capture of a suspect named Amirrudin, 22.

Following his arrest, Amirrudin admitted to being part of a five-man terrorist commando unit that carried out the attack.

General Saleh Saaf, chief police inspector for South Sulawesi, said documents found in Amirrudin’s possession revealed a wider plot to carry out terror attacks across the country. The documents contained instructions for making homemade bombs and other coded information which police plan to investigate further.

Within days of the April 24 attack, two other bombs were set off in Poso, Central Sulawesi. By May 3, police had arrested three Muslims in connection with the Poso explosions.

According to an ABC Radio Australia report on May 3, the three suspects told police that their mission was to wage a jihad or holy war in the province, to highlight the plight of Muslims worldwide.