Three villagers in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi were killed in separate attacks, police said Thursday, raising fears of renewed religious violence in the strife-torn region.
In the first attack, unidentified assailants stabbed to death two Protestant Christians, identified only by their first names, as they walked along a crowded street Wednesday night in the village of Jono Oge, 12 miles from Southeast Sulawesi’s provincial capital of Palu. According to AsiaNews, one of the victims, Yahya, died on the spot from serious wounds to the neck, while the other, Sakeus, died as he was being rushed to a nearby hospital.
Authorities say that investigators were pursuing some leads but gave no further details as to who was behind the attack and why.
Wednesday night’s attack was the second one in the last eight months in the predominantly Christian village. In March, violence claimed at least another villager, while two others suffered from serious injuries.
In a separate incident Wednesday, a group of men shot at a house about 62 miles away in Kawende, killing a Balinese woman and injuring two Christian men, local police chief Lt. Col. Abdi Darma told the Associated Press.
Darma said the motive was unclear, but couldn't rule out religious conflict because the Christian villages are located in predominantly Muslim areas.
Parts of Central Sulawesi, about 1,000 miles northeast of the capital, Jakarta, were the scene of fighting between Muslims and Christians in the late 1990s that left more than 1,000 people dead. Unlike most of Indonesia where there is a Muslim majority, Central Sulawesi's population is evenly divided between Muslims and Christians.
Although large-scale violence has ended, there are still reports of sporadic attacks, mostly on Christian villages and places of worship.
In July, gunmen burst into a Christian church in the Central Sulewesi town of Palu, killing the female minister and wounding four worshippers. In May, gunmen killed a prominent Christian prosecutor in Palu as he left another church.
Intelligence officials have blamed the spate of deadly attacks on Christians late last year on Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaida linked terror group accused in the 2002 Bali bombings.