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Compass – Indonesian Christians are in shock today as details emerge of two vicious attacks over the weekend on a Christian couple and three teenagers in the town of Palu , Central Sulawesi .

Motorbike riders shot a man and woman at close range shortly after they left a church service on Saturday (November 19). Palu is near the town of Poso, where machete and shooting attacks have killed four teenage girls and seriously injured two others in the past month (See Compass Direct, “Two More Schoolgirls Critically Injured in Poso, Indonesia,” November 9).

The victims of Saturday’s shooting were identified as Novlin Pallinggi, 37, and her husband Pudji Laksono, 45. A bullet was removed from Laksono’s chest on Sunday, and he is in stable condition. But surgeons failed to dislodge two bullets from Pallinggi’s chest and ribs, and she remains in critical condition, The Jakarta Post reported today.

Witnesses said two men had fired at the couple.

In the same town on Friday morning (November 18), two women and one man were attacked with machetes, killing one of the women. Officials have refused to comment on the religious affiliation of the three victims.

Three men riding a motorbike and carrying machetes drew near another motorbike bearing 20-year old Supriyanti and her friends, identified in local media reports only by their first names: a 23-year-old man named Anca, and a 20-year-old woman named Evi.

The assailants struck Supriyanti’s neck and almost severed one of Evi’s arms. Anca escaped serious injury and immediately took his friends to the local Wirabuana hospital, where staff turned them away because the wounds were “too serious.”

Anca then took Supriyanti and Evi to the Undata hospital, but Supriyanti died on the way due to severe blood loss.

By Friday afternoon, police had questioned five witnesses but were still looking for the perpetrators, according to an Antara news agency report.

Adj. Sr. Comr. Rais Adam, speaking on behalf of the Central Sulawesi police force, refused to speculate on links between these incidents and previous attacks in the nearby town of Poso .

Two female students, Ivon Maganti, 17, and Siti Nuraini, 17, were shot on November 8 while they sat chatting in front of a house in a Christian area of Poso. Siti, a Muslim, died shortly afterward, while Ivon, a Christian, is still recovering.

Machete-wielding assailants also beheaded three Christian schoolgirls – Theresia Morangke, 15, Alfita Poliwo, 17, and Yarni Sambue, 15 – in Poso on October 29 as they walked to school. A fourth victim, 15-year-old Noviana Malewa, is still being treated for serious machete wounds to her face and neck.

National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Soenarko said on Friday that police had arrested a man named Irfan Masiro in relation to the beheadings. Masiro is a security guard at Poso Hospital .

“We have named Irfan a suspect because … he owned a machete with a bloodstain that matches [Morangke’s] blood type,” Soenarko said.

Irfan is one of five suspects previously questioned by the military; the other four were released last week due to lack of evidence.

Soenarko also said police had arrested four suspects in the November 8 shooting of Maganti and Nuraini. Residents of Poso and Palu remained skeptical however, citing numerous violent crimes in 2004 and 2005 that remain unsolved. In most cases, the victims were Christians.

From 2000 to 2001, violent conflict between Muslims and Christians on the island of Sulawesi resulted in at least 1,000 deaths. A similar conflict took place in the neighboring Maluku islands from 1998 to 2002.