One dead, church burned, in clashes in Indonesia's Aceh

BANDA ACEH (AFP) - One man was killed Tuesday (Oct 13) in violent clashes that saw a church burned to the ground by hundreds of armed men in Indonesia's conservative Islamic province of Aceh, a local police chief said.

About 750 stick-wielding men razed a church in southern Aceh before clashing with local Christians at a second church.

"After burning the church the mob tried to attack another church, but it turned out Christians were already at the ready," Aceh police chief Husein Hamidi told AFP.

"A clash occurred, and one man was killed after being shot in the head with an air rifle." Four others were wounded by rocks thrown during the confrontation, he added.

Police and the military were jointly deployed to restore order and one of the injured was a member of the armed forces, according to Hamidi.

The identity of the dead man and the three other injured remained unclear.

Hamidi said the clashes followed a demonstration last week by an Islamic youth group demanding the local government tear down a number of churches they claimed had been built illegally without permits.

The local authorities agreed to act, but tensions boiled over Tuesday as angry civilians took matters into their own hands, Hamidi said.

The situation has since been brought under control, and 30 people have been detained for questioning, he added.

Jakarta-based human rights group Imparsial "condemned the burning of a place of worship and the loss of life," director executive Poengky Indarti told AFP.

"Imparsial is deeply concerned of the presence of intolerant groups (acting) in the name of religion."

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim majority country but significant minorities of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Confucians live side by side in the diverse archipelago.

Attacks on places of worship have occurred in the past. A mosque was razed in Papua, a Christian-majority province in eastern Indonesia, in July on the Islamic holy day of Eid al-Fitr.