Blast rocks Indonesian mall; 6 killed, 45 injured
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Blast rocks Indonesian mall; 6 killed, 45 injured

The blast was the latest in a string to rock the Sulawesi province and came as securitymen were on high alert.

world Updated: Dec 31, 2005 11:34 IST

Six people were killed and 45 injured when a bomb detonated at a market stall selling pork early on Saturday in the Indonesian town of Palu in religiously-divided Central Sulawesi province, police said.

The explosion is the latest in a string to rock the restive province and came as Indonesian security forces across the archipelago nation were on high alert for potential Islamic extremist attacks during the New Year period.

"We have sealed the area for fears of more unidentified bombs, but as to whether the death toll will rise, it is still unknown," police officer Rawang said from Palu. He confirmed that six were dead and 45 injured.

"Most of the victims suffered injuries to their legs because of the shrapnel from the bomb," he added.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned the bombing and immediately ordered an investigation into the bombing, his spokesman Andi Malaranggeng said.

Yudhoyono had also asked top security minister Widodo Adisucipto and national police chief Sutanto to "investigate whether this bombing is related to the previous attacks" in the region, Malaranggeng said.

Central Sulawesi police chief Oegroseno told Metro TV that the blast occurred inside a kiosk selling pork at the market, located about 100 metres from a Christian church.

Palu mayor Rusdi Mazura told the television channel that the bomb appeared to be made of low-grade explosives.

All the injured were taken to four area hospitals for treatment, the station reported.

Last month, about 1,000 extra troops and police were sent to Central Sulawesi after a spike in violence between Muslims and Christians, which has included shootings, bombings and beheadings.

The province's Poso district as well as its capital Palu have been particularly targetted in the unrest, with a Christian couple and two girls shot and wounded in two separate November attacks.

Masked assailants beheaded three Christian schoolgirls in Poso in late October, while several bombs have exploded or been discovered there in the past few months.

Widespread religious violence rocked the area in 2000 and 2001, killing more than 1,000 people. A government-brokered truce was put in place in December 2001 but intermittent bombings, shootings and other attacks targeting Christians, believed linked to Muslim extremists, have continued.

On May 28 this year, twin bomb blasts tore through a busy market in the Christian-dominated town of Tentena in the province, killing 19 people and injuring at least 40.

Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim-populated nation, but Christians and Muslims live in roughly equal numbers in parts of the eastern island chain of Sulawesi and in Maluku.

Indonesia's spy chief warned last week that revenge attacks by extremists could occur after militant Malaysian bombmaker Azahari Husin was gunned down by anti-terror police on November 9 at his hideaway in East Java.

Security around Yudhoyono has doubled in the wake of the escalated threat and amid warnings that high-profile kidnappings for ransom may be planned by extremists.

First Published: Dec 31, 2005 09:23 IST