Indonesia says will act against brutal attacks on religious sect

Jakarta, Indonesia - Indonesian authorities said on Monday they were investigating a brutal mob attack that killed three followers of a religious sect after footage of the frenzied beatings was repeatedly shown on local TV stations and social media sites.

Sunday's attack was the latest against members of the half-a-million strong Ahmadi movement, which considers itself Islamic but is regarded as heretic by mainstream Muslims.

The attacks could heighten risk concerns for foreign investors counting on improved religious tolerance in southeast Asia's largest economy and the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for action against those responsible.

"I want the law enforcers to be professional and firm in preventing violence and to take action against the perpetrators," he said.

Around 1,500 people attacked the house of an Ahmadi follower in Pandeglang, near the capital, Jakarta, torching buildings and vehicles, local media reported.

The Ahmadis believe Mohammad was not Islam's final prophet and say Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who founded the sect in India in the 19th century, was a successor and messiah.

Video of Sunday's incident posted on Youtube by an Indonesian staffer of Human Rights Watch shows two men apparently being beaten to death by a mob shouting "Allahu Akbar", or God is greatest. (

Several masked or helmeted men join the beating, striking the half-naked victims with clubs and rocks, while dozens of others stand by, watching or filming the incident on camera phones. The faces of many are clearly identifiable.

Local TV stations on Monday repeatedly highlighted footage that appears to show two police officers ineffectively attempting to stop the mob attack before leaving the scene.

"Police tried (to stop the violence) but there was an imbalance between police personnel and the mass," national police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said.


Ahmadi group spokesman Zafrullah Pontoh said three followers were killed and five others were missing.

"The police acted as if they were shooing away chickens," he told Reuters by telephone.

Indonesia's Ulema Council, the country's top Islamic authority, said it regretted the event and called for the attackers to face justice, but added Ahmadi followers who tarnish Islam should also be punished.

Analysts say a root of the conflict is a government decree of 2008 that said Ahmadi followers could be jailed for tarnishing religion but stopped short of banning the movement. Critics say the law is ambiguous and was always likely to spark religious conflict in what is officially a secular country.

Rights groups condemned Sunday's attack.

"For years, Indonesian authorities have sat idly by while mobs have violently attacked the Ahmadi," said Elaine Pearson of Human Rights Watch.

"If the government is serious about stopping violence against the Ahmadis, then it should also immediately lift the 2008 decree which prohibits the Ahmadi from practicing their religion."

Local rights group PBHI, Indonesia's Legal Aid and Human Rights Association, also condemned the violence, calling it "the fruit of a series of events provoked by a government policy, disintegrative-nuanced calls of some religious authorities and the lack of law enforcement".

The case of the Ahmadi has divided Indonesia, an archipelago of over 17,000 islands and home to around 240 million people -- about 90 percent Muslim and mostly moderate.

Only six religions or beliefs are officially recognised in Indonesia --Islam, Protestant and Catholic Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.