Arrests in Indonesia over deadly church attack


Indonesian police named 10 suspected instigators of this week’s burning of a church and ensuing clashes in the Muslim province of Aceh that killed one person.

“Police have detained three suspects and are looking for seven others,” spokesman Agus Rianto said.

Hundreds of people set fire to a church in Aceh Singkil district on Tuesday, but the crowd was confronted by another group when they tried to attack a second church, police said.

One person was shot and killed by an airgun during the clashes.

More than 1,000 mostly Christian residents have fled Aceh for neighbouring North Sumatra province, fearing further attacks, Agus said.

“They are still afraid but we assured them that they can return and will be protected,” he said, adding that more police and soldiers had been deployed in the area.

President Joko Widodo appealed for calm and warned that the attack could hurt the country’s religious diversity.

The police said the attack followed Muslim residents’ complaints about the presence of churches that they said lacked proper permits as places of worship.

Local authorities promised to close the churches but locals were unhappy with the pace of negotiations, the police said.

Aceh is the only province in Indonesia allowed to apply Islamic law, as part of attempts by the central government to mollify desires for independence.

A peace agreement between Jakarta and the Free Aceh Movement in 2005 ended a long-running separatist insurgency that claimed more than 15,000 lives, mostly civilians.