Suspected militants kill four people from Christian minority in remote Indonesian island

Indonesian police are looking for suspected militants accused of killing four people in a remote part of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, including one who was beheaded and one burned to death.

According to witness reports, the perpetrators had asked for food from the victims who were killed when they refused, the militants linked to a “terrorist” group then beheaded one victim and slit the throats of the others, national police spokesman Awi Setiyono quoted a witness as saying.

Authorities said the victims were members of a Christian community but a police official said the assault was not religiously motivated. The attackers also torched half a dozen homes, including one used for regular prayers and services, police said.

Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, has grappled with intermittent militant attacks recently.

“This attack is another serious escalation against the Christian minority in Indonesia,” Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono told Reuters.

Gomar Gultom, the head of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, said the victims were Christian and urged the authorities to resolve the case.

Authorities blamed Sulawesi-based East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), one of the groups across the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation that have pledged allegiance to ISIL (ISIS).

“We reached the conclusion that they (the attackers) were from MIT after showing pictures of its members to relatives of the victims” who witnessed the ambush, said Yoga Priyahutama, Sigi Regency police chief.

If confirmed to be the work of MIT, the killings would be its first significant attack since the organisation’s leader was killed four years ago by Indonesia’s elite anti-terror squad, according to Jakarta-based expert Sidney Jones.