LASKAR JIHAD ON RAMPAGE IN PAPUA

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (Nov. 4, 2002 - Laksamana.Net/Kabar Irian)---The South China Morning Post reported church sources in Maluku saying that the feared Indonesian Islamic militant group Laskar Jihad has relocated from Maluku to Papua, where it is attacking churches and mosques, thus making a mockery of the group's claims that it had disbanded after the Oct. 12 Bali bombings.

The Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (ELS-HAM), the leading Papuan human rights group, said several hundred Laskar militants had arrived in the provincial Papuan capital Jayapura after the group announced it was disbanding.

At least 300 hundred Laskar members arrived last month from Ambon, said ELS-HAM’s Aloi Renwarin, adding that his organization had estimated there were now some 3,000 Laskar members spread across several towns in Papua, including Sorong, Manokwiri and Jayapura.

Police spokesman Yosep Iswanto, however, denied that Laskar Jihad members had tried to attack Christian villages. "They were just men looking for work and people suspected maybe they were trying to stir up conflict so they beat them up," he said.

The reports said there was other evidence of gangs trying to stir up trouble against Christians in Jayapura.

The newspaper quoted local pastor Menusaafa as saying the attackers admitted they had been paid to attack Christians and their churches. "They admitted to witnesses that they had been paid to burn churches or else a mosque," the pastor said.

"They said that if they were successful they would get a bonus of Rp15 million ($1,600) if they burned a church or mosque and Rp50 million if they killed a priest."

Three men admitted to witnesses that they were from Laskar Jihad and that their commander had moved from Ambon, where Laskar Jihad and other Muslim groups have fought against Christian militias for the past two years.

KABAR-IRIAN ("Irian News") Websites: http://www.irja.org/index2.shtml and http://www.kabar-irian.com  

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