Warning shots fired as Muslins attack jailed Christians

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The Independent Online

Indonesian police have fired warning shots as stone–throwing Muslims mobbed a court house where three Christians were sentenced to death for inciting a massacre and other religious violence.

Indonesian police fired warning shots today as stone–throwing Muslims mobbed a court house where three Christians were sentenced to death for inciting a massacre and other religious violence.

The Palu District Court in the town of Palu, in Central Sulawesi province, found the three guilty of training a gang of 700 Christians that attacked Muslim neighbourhoods in May last year.

In one incident, 191 Muslims sheltering in a mosque were massacred. Hundreds of people were killed and villages destroyed when Muslim gangs retaliated in fighting that continued for one month.

The violence had spread from the nearby Maluku islands, where fighting between Christians and Muslims has left thousands dead since it broke out in January, 1999.

It was not immediately clear if the defendants' lawyers would appeal the verdict.

Outside the courthouse, a mob of about 2,000 Muslims threw stones at the vehicles carrying the defendants to jail. Witnesses said at least one policeman was injured when he was hit by a rock.

The crowd dispersed after security forces fired several warning shots.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia's western Aceh province, fresh violence has left at least four people dead, police and rights activists said today.

Two rebels were killed yesterday when a homemade bomb blew up as they were trying to plant it on a road near the town of Lhokseumawe, said northern Aceh's police spokesman Capt Abdi Darmawan.

In eastern Aceh, 1,100 miles north–west of Jakarta, the bodies of two villagers were found yesterday, said human right activist Yusuf Puteh. Both corpses had bullet wounds.

The deaths are believed to be linked to clashes between government troops and the rebel Free Aceh Movement. The rebels have been fighting for an independent homeland on the northern tip of Sumatra island about since the mid 1970's. At least 6,000 people have been killed in the past decade.

Indonesia's government and the insurgents entered into a cease–fire agreement last June, but it has failed to curb the fighting. Last month, the security forces sent extra troops to Aceh and announced it was launching a crackdown against the separatists.

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