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Two Shiite followers were killed in the latest religious violence involving Shia community members and an anti-Shia group in Sampang regency in Madura, East Java, on Sunday.
The victims have been identified as Mochamad Kosim, 50, and his brother Tohir, 46. They died of machete wounds. At least four other Shiites were injured during the attack.
At the height of the violence, the mob also set alight dozens of houses belonging to Shiite members in Nangkernang hamlet, Karang Gayam village, in Sampang.
The majority of Indonesians are Sunni Muslims.
Kulsum, the wife of incarcerated Shiite leader Tajul Muluk, confirmed that one Shiite follower was hacked to death and, according to reports from human right activists on the scene, another man, identified as Tohir, was also killed.
“One man died after being attacked with a machete, while all I knew at the time was that Tohir was dying. I haven’t heard if he eventually died because I am now separated from the others,” Kulsum said.
Kulsum and some 40 Shiite followers are currently sheltered inside an elementary school east of Nangkernang village, where the Shiite community lives.
“I don’t know the whereabouts of the other members. There were around 500 of us. We were being chased, so we ran for our lives,” Kulsum said.
Nia Syarifudin of the Bhinneka Tunggal Ika National Alliance Forum (ANBTI) claimed that the violence was triggered by the anti-Shia group, which tried to stop a number of Shiite students from returning to their boarding school in Bangil, East Java, on Sunday after spending their Idul Fitri holidays at home, on Sunday morning.
“The children later reported the threatening behavior to police, and the anti-Shia group responded by coming to the Shiite village and setting it ablaze,” Nia said.
Insp. Gen. Bambang Suparno, an official with the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister, confirmed that nearly 1,000 people took part in the destruction of property belonging to the Shiite community.
“A local police chief also sustained a head injury as the mob started throwing stones,” he said.
Hendardi, the chairman of human rights watchdog the Setara Institute, said what happened in Sampang was not a conflict but a systematic attack that was planned beforehand.
“It has become yet another appalling example of the lack of freedom of religion in this country,” he said.
According to Hendardi, the East Java Police chief should be removed for his inability to maintain security. Having failed to protect people in the area, he added, the National Police chief should immediately step in to deal with the extremists who had repeatedly committed attacks against the Shiites.
Meanwhile, the executive director of the Ma’arif Institute, Fajar Riza Ulhaq, said the attacks against the Shiite community in Sampang were criminal acts against a minority group.
“We have to act against the increasing acts of terror being meted out to minority groups. It reflects the escalating terror tactics being used against people of different faiths,” he said in a statement.
Hostility against minority groups would flare up unless the government took stern action against the perpetrators, Fajar added.
Kulsum’s husband, Tajul Muluk, was sentenced by Sampang District Court on July 12, after presiding judge Purnomo Amin Tjahjo declared him guilty of blaspheming Islam.
Tajul, whose house and pesantren (Islamic boarding school) were burned down by an angry mob in December, was accused of preaching to his followers that the Koran was not the original scripture, and that the true version of the Holy Book would only be revealed to Imam Mahdi. (png)
Margareth S. Aritonang and Apriadi Gunawan contributed reporting