JAKARTA, Indonesia, JAN. 1, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Explosions rocked four churches in the volatile central Sulawesi province, while a separate blast hit Jakarta today killing one person, shattering what had been relative calm during recent religious festivals, Reuters reported.
Deputy national police spokesman Edward Aritonang told Reuters a grenade was either thrown at or exploded in the hands of a man standing outside a restaurant in Jakarta a couple of hours before dawn, killing him.
Police in the central Sulawesi capital of Palu in eastern Indonesia said four blasts outside churches in the city — three hit simultaneously as the New Year began — wounded at least one policeman. The province has seen savage clashes between Muslims and Christians in the past three years.
Aritonang said he did not believe the explosions in Sulawesi and the national capital, Jakarta, were related. They occurred despite the presence of tens of thousands of police and soldiers on patrol to keep New Year´s Eve celebrations in check.
The Palu blasts were caused by unidentified devices. Some 200 people were in one of the churches when the midnight blasts occurred, a local priest said. No worshippers were hurt. It wasn´t immediately reported whether all the churches were Catholic facilities.
Much of the religious and communal violence occurring in the world´s most populous Muslim nation stems from political and economic grievances that were forcibly suppressed during the three-decade iron rule of President Suharto.
Those grievances burst open when Suharto fell from power in 1998, especially in outlying eastern regions where Muslims and Christians are roughly equally represented. Overall, Muslims make up 85-90% of the country´s 210 million people.
The Palu incidents occurred less than two weeks after a peace deal was struck by Christians and Muslims in an area around Poso, a town 60 miles from Palu. More than 1,000 people have been killed in three years of clashes around Poso.