Wednesday, October 18, 2006

President orders investigation

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered security forces to thoroughly investigate the shooting Monday of a Christian pastor in conflict-prone Palu, Central Sulawesi.
Presidential spokesman Andi Alfian Mallarangeng said Tuesday that Yudhoyono had ordered Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Widodo Adi Sucipto to quickly find those who killed Rev. Irianto Kongkoli, secretary-general of the South Sulawesi Christian Church.
"The president has instructed (the minister) ... to seriously tackle this case and uncover the perpetrators so that they can be brought to justice and punished," Mallarangeng said in comments broadcast on ElShinta radio, AFP reported.
The 40-year-old pastor was shot dead by masked gunmen while shopping with his wife.
The president also asked residents in Central Sulawesi to remain calm and keep the peace, Andi said.
Tensions in the province, where Muslims and Christians live in roughly equal numbers, were already running high following the Sept. 22 executions of three Christians who were convicted of inciting violence against Muslims in 2000.
Separately, the chief of the National Police, Gen. Sutanto, said Tuesday in Semarang that the police were still investigating the shooting and have questioned witnesses.
"It's just that we don't yet know the motive behind the pastor's shooting. We're still analyzing and collecting data," he explained.
"(The suspects) are still at large, so we can't be sure whether they're from out of town or within it," Sutanto said.
National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Bambang Kuncoko said in Jakarta the police had "questioned six witnesses, including the victim's wife and driver".
He said based on how the murder was carried out, "we suspect the pair are from the same group that has carried out recent bombings and mutilations". He was referring to a series of low-level bombings in the past year and the beheadings of three Christian girls in 2005.
A source, however, told Sinar Harapan daily Tuesday that authorities were connecting the murder to the Basri group, which has also been linked to the beheadings of the three girls.
"Preliminary suspicion is that the group has intentionally tried to divert attention from Poso to Palu with the shooting of pastor Irianto Kongkoli," the source said.
The murder was widely condemned, with chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights, Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara, demanding the government boost efforts to deal with the roots of the problems which have triggered violence in Sulawesi over the last few years.
The youth wing of the Muslim organization Muhammadiyah urged the government to punish the shooters.
"We demand the National Police chief immediately arrest the shooters and give them the heaviest penalty, death if necessary, to let people know the country's laws do not make exceptions," said the group's president Muhammad Ihsan.
In Palu, residents gave a cold greeting to an entourage of local and Jakarta officials who came to visit the victim's home.
Meanwhile, several churches and Christians flew their flags at half-staff for three days as a show of concern.
The pastor will be buried midday Wednesday at a Christian cemetery in the Talise subdistrict of East Palu.

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