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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 10:32 GMT
Minister urges firm action in Sulawesi
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (C); Army Chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto (L); Armed Forces Chief Adm. Widodo Adisucipto (R)
Yudhoyono (centre) met military chiefs earlier this week
Police in the troubled province of Sulawesi have reported a lull in sectarian violence as Indonesia's top security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, arrived to assess whether martial law should be imposed.


It is high time to abandon the disproportionate fear of violating the principles of human rights in taking action against troublemakers

Security Minister Yudhoyono
During a visit to the town of Poso, where hundreds of houses have been destroyed and thousands have fled their homes, Mr Yudhoyono reportedly urged security officials to take firm action.

Quoted by Antara news agency, he said about 1,800 soldiers and police were already in the Poso area. A police spokesman said officers were continuing to patrol potential trouble spots but there had been no reports of fresh violence.

At least eight people have been killed in recent clashes between Christians and Muslims.

On Tuesday, Mr Yudhoyono said the local authorities should not be afraid of "violating the principles of human rights in taking action against troublemakers".

Indonesian Muslim praying in a mosque
Laskar Jihad say they are protecting the local Muslim community
Thousands of members of the Islamic organisation, Laskar Jihad, have recently arrived in Sulawesi.

The group has been blamed for conducting a violent campaign against the Christian community in neighbouring Maluku province in which at least 9,000 people have been killed since 1999.

One police source said on Tuesday that Afghans and other foreigners had been spotted alongside Indonesian Muslim militia.

'Living in fear'

In the province of Sulawesi at least 1,000 people have been killed in religious fighting in the last two years. But until fresh violence broke out last week there had been a period of relative calm.


In the mainly Christian town of Tentena on Tuesday, people were reported to be getting their weapons ready for attacks by Muslims who have surrounded the village.

"People in Tentena and the surrounding areas are now living in fear of more violence," said a Catholic priest in the town, Jimmy Tumbelaka.

"There is no sense of security left."

In other parts of the region, Muslims have fled their homes fearing attacks by Christians, police said.

See also:

04 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Afghan fighters 'seen' in Sulawesi
04 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Sulawesi braced for more violence
03 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
More bloodshed feared in Sulawesi
23 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jaya to get more autonomy
04 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Sulawesi violence claims 18 lives
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Who are the Laskar Jihad?
26 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Troubled history of the Moluccas
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