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Monday, 25 December, 2000, 14:34 GMT
Analysis: Indonesia's fear of spiralling violence
Aftermath of church bomb in Indonesia
The attacks were extremely well coordinated
By Jonathan Head in Jakarta

Security has been tightened around churches in Indonesia after the series of bomb blasts on Christmas Eve which left 14 people dead and scores injured.

Religious leaders from both the Christian majority and the Muslim majority have condemned the bombs and called on people not to retaliate.

Thousands of people have already died in religious clashes since the fall of the Suharto regime back in 1998.

The fact that this was a well organised bombing campaign clearly calculated to stir up religious animosity has shocked both Christian and Muslim communities in Indonesia.

Cycle of violence

Even some of the most militant Islamic groups who this year have been helping fight Christians in the Eastern Molucca islands have disowned the Christmas Eve bombing campaign.

Indonesian Police
The police seem powerless to prevent more attacks
But despite this show of unity the prospect that it will still spark off a cycle of retaliation and counter-retaliation is a very real one.

Previous attacks on Christians have usually provoked some kind of violent reaction which is presumably what those behind the bombings intended.

The next 48 hours will be critical. Christmas this year has come just two days before the end of the Muslim fasting month which is always a time of heightened emotions in Indonesia.

Any attack on Muslims in that time could ignite more serious communal violence.

Despite the visibly larger police presence outside churches this morning, the demoralised security forces are simply not up to the job of preventing further attacks should they occur.

Military suspected

Indeed most observers here believe that the Christmas Eve bombing campaign must have involved some members of the military.

President Abdurrahman Wahid
President Wahid's hold on power looks increasingly fragile
It is impossible to say what the exact motive was for the bombings.

President Wahid believes they were intended to discredit him. And it is certainly true they will add to the impression that he is simply not in control of the country.

Some members of parliament are already planning to try to unseat Mr Wahid before the end of his term of office in 2004.

However to succeed that would require the support of Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri, and so far she has shown little inclination to try to force Mr Wahid aside.

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See also:

24 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Indonesian bombings
13 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Indonesia's fragile archipelago
07 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Moluccas Christians bombed
25 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Violence flares across Indonesia
02 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Behind the Moluccan violence
14 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Moluccan militants: God on our side
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