5 Nov 2002

Church leader in Papua doubts claims about militants' arrival

11:40 am on 5 November 2002

A church leader in Indonesia's Papua province says he is mystified by reports that churches and mosques there have been torched.

The South China Post says several hundred Laskar Jihad militants have arrived in Papua since the Bali bombing, taking their numbers to around three thousand.

The paper quotes locals as saying churches and mosques have been burnt down.

It reports the attackers as saying they were paid to attack Christians and their churches.

Local police have denied the claims while Brother Teo Van den Broek, who heads the Catholic Office for Justice and Peace in Jayapura, says there are plenty of rumours flying around but no substance to the latest claims.

"I am quite confused about that information. I saw that report and I'm amazed by the certainty it is presented with. Let me put it this way: we didn't have any churches or mosques burnt down or attacked over here over the last weeks."

Teo Van den Broek