Headlines

Indonesia protesters torch
mosque of 'heretical' Muslim
sect

Hundreds of protesters chanting "kill, kill" set fire to a mosque belonging to a Muslim sect that
they claim is heretical, while alls mounted for the group to be formally banned.

No one was injured in Monday's early morning blaze, said national police spokesman Maj. Gen. Abubakar Nataprawira. Several suspects were taken in for questioning.

The attack was the latest targeting the Ahmadiyah sect in Indonesia, the world's most poplous Muslim nation. Hard-liners claim the sect, founded at the end of the 19th century in Pakistan, was devised by British colonialists to divide Muslims.

Last week, a team of prosecutors, religious scholars and government officials said the sect "had deviated from Islamic principles" and recommended ite outlawed. There have been several acts of vandalism targeting Ahmadiyah since then.

About 300 people torched a mosque and destroyed an Islamic school building inside the Ahmadiyah compound in Sukabumi, a town in West Java province, just after midnight Monday. Many sect members have since fled the area, seeking refuge with friends and relatives nearby.

"We heard the attackers chanting 'burn, burn' and 'kill, kill,"' said Zaki Firdaus, one of the sect's members. "It was horrifying."

Indonesia is a secular country with a long history of religious tolerance. But in recent years a hard-line fringe has grown louder and the government - which relies on the support of Islamic parties in Parliament - has been accused of caving to it.

Ahmadiyah, believed to have 200,000 followers in Indonesia, has also faced persecution in other Muslim countries. Its followers insist it should be considered part of Islam. (**)

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