Police in Indonesia were on Saturday hunting suspected militants accused of killing four people said by rights groups to be Christians, beheading one and burning down their homes.
Ten militants linked to a “terrorist” group beheaded one victim and slit the throats of the others on the island of Sulawesi on Friday, national police spokesman Awi Setiyono quoted a witness as saying.
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.
International Christian Concern, a Washington-based advocacy group, said “an alleged terrorist” killed four Christians in the Sulawesi village, burning down a Salvation Army post and Christian homes.
According to witness reports, the perpetrators had asked for food from the victims, who were killed when they refused, Awi told Reuters. He denied the attacks were religiously motivated.
“We’re on the ground now, there’s about 100 people who will start chasing,” he told the news channel Metro TV.
The investigation, led by the Indonesian police and the military, may run into hurdles as the incident took place in a hilly, remote village near the region of Sigi in Central Sulawesi province, he said.