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Three Indonesian students beheaded - police

October 29, 2005

Three Indonesian students beheaded - police

By Tomi Soetjipto and Telly Nathalia

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Three teenage Christian women were beheaded on Saturday by two assailants wearing helmets in eastern Indonesia as they walked to school near the Muslim town of Poso, officials said. 

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned the killings, which he described as "sadist and inhuman crimes", and called an emergency security meeting with his vice-president, as well as military officials and police. 

Two men on a motorcycle and armed with machetes attacked the 16-year-old students on the eastern island of Sulawese, a police official in Poso told Reuters. 

"The men slashed and chopped off their heads. One of the students managed to escape and jumped into the bushes in a ravine and the assailants stopped chasing her," said the official who declined to be identified. 

Poso, 1,500 km northeast of Jakarta, is in an area where three years of Muslim-Christian clashes have killed 2,000 people until a peace deal was agreed in late 2001. 

Although religious fighting has largely subsided, tension is still running high in the region following bombings in the neighbouring Christian town of Tentena which killed 22 people in May. 

Security experts have said local Islamic radicals may have been responsible for the bombings in Tentena but police said they had no information on who was responsible for Saturday's attacks. 

The official Antara news agency said police were searching the area but so far no one had been detained. 

Police said the student who escaped said the attackers wore helmets and carried a two-way radio. 

The three headless bodies of the high school students, dressed in brown uniforms, were left at the site of the attack. Three heads were found at separate locations two hours later by residents. 

"One was found about 100 metres away from a church," said police. 

The wounded student was treated for cuts to her face at a local hospital. 

About 85 percent of Indonesia's 220 million people are Muslim. But in some eastern parts, Christian and Muslim populations are about equal. 

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