By Katharina R. Lestari
A hunt is underway in Indonesia for suspected Islamic State-linked terrorists who killed four Christians in an attack on a village in Central Sulawesi province.
At least eight people broke into a house and attacked a family of four in Lemban Tongoa, a village in Sigi district, on Nov. 27, police said.
They then took 40 kilograms of rice and set fire to the house and four other homes before fleeing.
One of the homes burned was used as a place of worship for local Christians.
Police called to the scene found four bodies, two of whom were beheaded.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD blamed a local Islamic State-linked terror group called the East Indonesia Mujahideen for the attack and said no effort would be spared in bringing those responsible to justice.
“The perpetrators were members of the East Indonesia Mujahideen. This group … now has only a few members. We are hunting them down,” he told reporters on Nov. 29.
The group is believed to have been established in 2012 and, unlike the more well-known Jamaah Ansharut Daulah group, whose area of operation covers the whole of Indonesia, its area of operation is centered around Central Sulawesi province.
The group is affiliated with both the Islamic State and Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group based in the southern Philippines. Its first leader, Santoso, was killed in a gunfight in 2016 in which another militant leader, Muhammad Basri, was captured.
Mahfud said the government hoped that “all religious leaders, particularly in Central Sulawesi, will look to prevent any ethnic or religious conflicts,” in the wake of the attack.
Reverend Gomar Gultom, chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, condemned the attack and called on the government to quickly capture those responsible. He also criticized what he thought was a lack of policing in areas where militants were thought to operate.
“The authorities must be seen to be providing security for people,” he said.
A similar reaction came from Karolin Margret Natasa, chairwoman of Catholic Youth.
“We call on all Catholics and the whole of society to have the courage to stop such violent acts and promote unity. We must take an active part in breaking the chain of violence and intolerance,” she said.
Meanwhile, Stanislaus Riyanta, an intelligence analyst from the University of Indonesia, told UCA News he believed that the attack was carried out in revenge for the killing of two of the group’s members in a clash on Nov. 17 in Parigi Moutong district.
“It was their response. This is a message that they are not finished,” he said.