Bomb blast in Indonesia kills 8, injures 45 | world | Hindustan Times
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Bomb blast in Indonesia kills 8, injures 45

The attack occurred in the town of Palu as people were preparing for New Year's celebrations.

world Updated: Jan 01, 2006 11:58 IST

A bomb ripped through a crowded meat market in an Indonesian province that has been plagued by sectarian violence, killing at least 8 people on Saturday and wounding 45, officials said.

Many of the victims were believed to be Christians. The attack occurred in the town of Palu as people were preparing for New Year's celebrations, flocking to the morning market that sold and slaughtered pigs, said Brig Gen Oegroseno, the police chief of Central Sulawesi province.

The bomb was loaded with ball bearings and nails to maximise the number casualties, he said.

"The explosion was so loud, I couldn't hear for a couple of seconds," said Tega, a resident who lived nearby and like many Indonesians uses only one name. "I ran out of my house and saw bodies lying around."

Police said it was too early to say who was behind the attack, but it followed repeated warnings that members of the Al-Qaeda-linked militant group Jemaah Islamiyah were plotting strikes in the world's most populous Muslim nation over the holidays.

The government responded by deploying tens of thousands of troops nationwide to protect churches and places where foreigners gather. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned the blast, and urged police to investigate whether it was linked to a series of other attacks on Christians in the province earlier this year, said his spokesman Andi Mallarangeng.

Television footage showed police carrying bloodied bodies into ambulances. One man, apparently unhurt, was holding his head in his hands and screaming. Hospital workers and intelligence officials said at least eight people died and Oegroseno said another 45 were wounded.

National police spokesman Maj Gen Paulus Purwoko told reporters in Jakarta that several suspicious packages were found elsewhere in Indonesia on early Saturday, but it later turned out they were not bombs. He had no other details.

Ninety per cent of Indonesia's 210 million people are Muslims, and most people practice a moderate form of the faith. But attacks against Christians have increased in recent years amid a global rise in Islamic radicalism.

The Jemaah Islamiyah terror network has been blamed for a series of bloody bombings in Indonesia since 2000, including two strikes on Bali island that together killed 222 people, many of them foreigners.

It is also accused in Christmas Eve church bombings five years ago that left 19 dead.

Almost half of Central Sulawesi's population is Christian. The province was the scene of fierce battles between Muslims and Christians in 2001 and 2002 that killed about 1,000 people, and despite a peace deal, bombings, shootings and other attacks on Christians have continued.

There have been a series of attacks in recent months, and security officials and former militants told that Jemaah Islamiyah was involved. In October, unidentified assailants beheaded three Christian high school girls in Poso, east of Palu. In May, two bombs in the Christian-dominated town of Tentena killed 20 people.

Police have questioned several suspects in those attacks, but have not formally brought charges against anyone. One Christian clergyman said Saturday he was losing patience. "Whenever an incident takes place, senior officials ask us to tell the people to remain unprovoked," said Rinaldy Damanik, leader of the Synod Churches of Central Sulawesi. "When will the authorities be able to reveal the barbaric perpetrators in the province?"

Maj Gen Firman Gani, the Jakarta police chief, said last week that members of Jemaah Islamiyah might use the holidays to retaliate for the November death of bomb-making expert Azahari bin Husin, who was gunned down in a police raid.