The Jakarta Post – Police on Indonesia ‘s Sulawesi island said Tuesday they had made scant progress in their investigation into the beheading murders of three Christian schoolgirls in the religiously-divided district of Poso.
Police and forensic experts have combed the scene of Saturdays killings but few clues have emerged, said Poso police chief Muhammad Soleh Hidayat.
“We haven’t found any meaningful leads so far because we have had difficulty finding witnesses,” Hidayat told AFP.
He said the only witness, a girl who survived the attack with injuries, was being treated in hospital in Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi province, and was not well enough to be questioned.
“She’s badly injured. Our first priority is to save her life. It would be inhuman to insist on questioning her,” he said.
Machete-wielding attackers ambushed the high school students on their way home, killing three and wounding the fourth, police said. Two of the victims’ heads were found near a police post while the third was discovered outside a Christian church.
Capt. Idham Mahdi, Poso’s chief detective, told AP it was too early to say who was behind the killings – though suspicion has fallen on Islamic militants seeking to destabilize the region.
Four dozen detectives and forensic experts were trying to reenact the events leading up to the crime, he said.
Sniffer dogs led them to the rugged hills overlooking the cocoa plantation where the teenagers were murdered while walking to their Christian high school, just outside of Poso.
“We believe the perpetrators may have been watching the girls from the hill before they attacked them,” said Mahdi, adding that authorities also found a backpack that allegedly belonged to the assailants. It contained only a key chain.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned the killings and Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday deplored what he described as “barbaric murder.”
About 400 police and 600 troops have been sent Poso amid fears that the killings would reignite widespread religious violence which killed more than 1,000 people between 2000 and 2001 in the area.
The government brokered a peace deal in December 2001 but intermittent violence has continued.
Police on Monday warned of further possible attacks to coincide with Idul Fitri , Indonesia ‘s biggest holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan, which falls on Thursday. (**)