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Press Release — April 28, 2002

Twelve Christians Killed in Pre-Dawn Brutal Attack in Ambon, Indonesia

Washington, DC April 28, 2002 – At least 12 Christians were brutally murdered and another 6 were injured during a deadly attack on the village of Soya during the early morning hours of April 28. The attack on the Protestant Christian Soya village near Ambon was carried out by armed attackers around 4 am Sunday morning. Black-clad Muslims “went from house to house, while proclaiming Allah’s Greatness, murdering anybody they could lay hands on, not sparing women and children, including a nine month old baby that was killed by bullets,” according to the Crisis Diocese of Amboina. Six of the victims were stabbed or shot while another six were burned to death. The unidentified attackers, believed to be members of the radical Laskar Jihad Islamic group, also burned down a Protestant church and dozens of Christians’ homes before fleeing the scene.

On April 24, just days before this deadly attack, Laskar Jihad leader, Jafar Umar Thalib, arrived in Ambon and encouraged Muslims there to make war on the Christians. The pretext of this attack was the raising of the RMS flag in Ambon. The RMS, a Christian separatist group with a little over 100 members, celebrated its 52nd anniversary on April 25 by flying flags and balloons bearing the RMS colors in various neighborhoods of Ambon. However, RMS leader Alex Manuputty had been arrested almost a week earlier, on April 17. Mr. Manuputty urged his supporters to “Show yourselves as brothers with high moral attitude and do not do anything that leads to anarchy, do not do anything against the law.” This stands in stark contrast to Thalib’s directive to attack the Christians.

The Laskar Jihad group has repeatedly denounced the Malino agreement of February 12, 2002, which outlined terms of peace and reconciliation between Christians and Muslims in war-torn Maluku, and made it clear that they would oppose it by all means possible. In a press release issued February 14, 2002, the Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC), expressed doubt that the Malino agreement could achieve peace unless provocative groups like the Laskar Jihad were disbanded. Unfortunately ICC’s predictions have proven all too true. An ICC representative condemned the attack on the Christians of Soya and added that: “It is the height of hypocrisy that the RMS leader should be arrested on charges of separatist activity while the head of the Laskar Jihad, who has called for violent attacks against Christians, is allowed to go free.”

ICC is calling for the immediate arrest of Jafar Umar Thalib and other members of the Laskar Jihad responsible for provoking and perpetrating violence against Christians. Furthermore, ICC urges Christians everywhere to express their outrage to the Indonesian government as well as to Secretary of State, Colin Powell. The Indonesian Embassy may be contacted at the following numbers: 202-775-5200 (telephone) and 202-775-5365 (fax). Secretary Powell may be contacted at 202-647-5291 (telephone) or 202-261-8577 (fax).