Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Police hunt for militants

POSO, Central Sulawesi (AP): Police searched jungles on Tuesday in their hunt for suspected Islamic militants blamed for a string of attacks on Christians, a day after 13 alleged terrorists and one officer were killed in a gun battle with security forces on Sulawesi Island.

The raid on the conflict-ridden Indonesian Island was a sharp escalation in the fight against terrorists in the world's most populous Muslim nation. Police said they only shot the men after coming under attack.

Central Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Badrodin Haiti said he believed more than 50 other militants had escaped Monday's raid in the seaside town of Poso and had fled to nearby hills and jungles.

"They are dangerous because they still have automatic weapons and ammunition," he told The Associated Press. "We are searching for them."

Most of Indonesia's 190 million Muslims practice a moderate form of the faith, but terrorists have gained a foothold in recent years, carrying out a string of deadly terrorist attacks that have left scores dead.

Many have set up base on Sulawesi Island, the scene of bloody fighting between Muslim and Christian gangs six years ago that left at least 1,000 people from both faiths dead. Islamic extremists have been blamed for sporadic bombings, shootings and other attacks since then.

Security forces have carried out several operations on Sulawesi against Muslim militants they had publicly accused of being behind the attacks. Senior officers made public calls for the men to turn themselves in and met with local hard-line Muslim leaders to try and enlist their help, but had no success.

What a surprise!! No success. These Muslim leaders from Islamic Defenders Front and Poso Islamic Brotherhood Forum should be jailed for aiding and abetting, obstructing justice and harboring fugitives.

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