Islamic State-linked extremists have killed four farmers in a remote village on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, police confirmed Wednesday, with one of the victims reportedly beheaded.
Five sword-wielding attackers ambushed a group of farmers who were harvesting their coffee plantation in Kalimago village in Poso regency on Tuesday morning, Central Sulawesi police spokesperson Didik Supranoto said.
The police blamed the attack on the Sulawesi-based East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), one of dozens of radical groups across the Southeast Asian archipelago that have pledged allegiance to IS.
“Five eyewitnesses recognized one of the perpetrators as (a man named) Qatar, who is an MIT member,” the police spokesperson said.
Locals were made aware of the MIT members by their pictures, distributed by the police in their hunt for suspected terrorists in the area.
The attack was motivated by “terrorism as well as robbery,” according to the police. “Everything the victims had was taken away by the perpetrators including rice, money, and other belongings they kept in their huts,” he added.
Local media reported that the victims were from Christian-majority ethnic group Toraja, and one was beheaded. These reports haven’t been confirmed by the police.
Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, has long wrestled with Islamist militancy and terror attacks, while Central Sulawesi has seen intermittent violence between Christians and Muslims for decades.
In November last year, MIT militants ambushed a Christian community in Poso, killing four with one victim beheaded and another burned to death. The group also torched half a dozen homes, including one used for regular prayers and services.
Indonesia’s Christians have been targeted in the past, including in 2018 when IS-linked group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah staged a wave of suicide bombings by families — including young children — at churches in the country’s second-biggest city Surabaya, killing a dozen congregants.
In late March this year, two newlywed suicide bombers blew themselves up at a church in Makassar on Sulawesi island, wounding 20 congregants and bystanders.