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Attackers bomb religious leader's home in Maluku

Three Muslim men gathered at the home for prayer were injured in the attack, which followed allegations of deviant teachings.

By Petrus Oratmangun for Khabar Southeast Asia in Ambon

February 28, 2013
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Maluku police are investigating what motivated unknown attackers to throw bombs at the home of a local religious leader in the town of Luhu on Seram Island in predawn hours of February 11th, seriously injuring three men.

  • Abdu Rajak Semarang, 46, was injured during bomb attacks at the house of Islamic leader M. Agil Silehu on February 11th and is currently in intensive care at a hospital unit in Ambon. [Petrus Oratmangun/Khabar].

    Abdu Rajak Semarang, 46, was injured during bomb attacks at the house of Islamic leader M. Agil Silehu on February 11th and is currently in intensive care at a hospital unit in Ambon. [Petrus Oratmangun/Khabar].

The three victims are members of the group Jamaah Zikir and Syalawat, and had gathered at the home of their leader, M Agil Silehu, to pray when the attack occurred, one of them said.

"Four bombs that exploded were thrown inside the house from outside, one after the other," one of the victims, Abdu Rajak Semarang, 46, told Khabar Southeast Asiafrom his hospital bed in Ambon City on February 14th.

"Some friends and I were sitting in the house when suddenly bombs exploded and hit the three of us."

Rajak, Sahlan Payapo, 29, and Abdullah Lisaholet, 30, suffered extensive wounds from bomb fragments and were rushed the following day to hospital in the provincial capital for intensive care.

Murni Semarang, a family member to one of the victims and a Jemaah Zikir group member, said the explosions occurred a day after the Maulid Nabi (Prophet Muhammad's birthday) and speculated the cause could be jealousy over the gala festivities.

"The celebration this time was the biggest ever carried out in Luhu," she told Khabar, urging police in West Seram and Maluku Province to capture and reveal the perpetrators promptly.

Information gathered by Khabar revealed that some Luhu residents have negative perceptions of the group.

"On certain days, they will pray in an open field in the forest. When it comes to worship, they're reluctant to interact with other Muslims," said resident Saleh, who asked that his full name not be published.

He said the group allows men and women to interact and to worship together. "This is not correct according to the Islamic teaching," he said.

Separately, group leader M. Agil Silehu rejected accusations that his congregation carries out any kind of unusual rituals.

"That is just a slanderous accusation from people who don't want peace in Luhu," he told Khabar. "We only worship Allah. This congregation has never done any of the negative things being talked about now."

He further said the group has practiced similar Islamic teachings since 1995. "It just happened recently that we feel discriminated against," he added.

He founded the group, he said, to build good Muslim character in the community, which at the time had become lazy in its liturgical practices. "When we began we had only about 30 members, and we have been slowly growing ever since. Our activities are zikir (chanting) and syalawat (praying). We do not have any other goal," he said.

But he fears some people are trying to convince the community that the group is not engaged in proper Islamic teachings.

Idrus Toekan, Chairman of the Maluku branch of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), declined to comment when contacted about the Jamaah Zikir incident in Luhu. "It's a pretty sensitive issue," he said, adding MUI will comment after authorities conduct their investigation.

Local police have so far cross-examined nine people in connection with the attack. Contacted by Khabar, Assistant Commissioner Supeno Sejuah said it may take a while to identify a motive.

"We are still trying to determine the basis for the attack and the perpetrators. So far, we do not have any suspects, but our investigation is ongoing," Supeno said.

In late December 2011, Luhu was the site of communal conflict with residents of a neighbouring town, Iha, in which dozens were injured and several homes were burned. Both towns are populated by Muslims. Police have not determined whether the bombing is linked to that history.

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