October 29, 2005: Islamist terrorist beheadings in Indonesia

Islamist extremists beheaded three Christian schoolgirls in Indonesia in October 2005 and wounded a fourth severely.

Islamist extremists beheaded three Christian schoolgirls in Indonesia in October 2005 and wounded a fourth severely.

CENTRAL SULAWESI, INDONESIA – What is to be gained by beheading schoolgirls who happen to be of a different faith?

When it comes to terrorism there are clearly different levels of ‘victims’. We all agree – or at least I hope we do! – that terrorism is any act of serious (planned) violence carried out for a political, religious or ideological cause. It is this more specific definition, after all, which differentiates terrorism from ‘garden-variety’ violence.

We also tend to agree that the victims of terrorist acts have to be either civilians or non-combatants. This is what makes an act of violence, even if it is executed by a known terrorist group (like Al Qaeda (AQ), Islamic State (ISIS), Al Shabaab, etc.), against an armed force somewhat iffy. Those on the receiving end tend to call it terrorism while those on the giving end call it warfare. Tomato, tomahto.

One thing we all agree on without question is that a terrorist group that singles out children for a brutal, heinous act is indeed committing an act of terrorism. Children, after all, can never be seen as combatants or legitimate targets (unlike governments for example, as seen through the eyes of the terrorists of course).

And yet terrorists do indeed kill children on occasion, and not necessarily by accident. Sure, a car bomb may mortally wound those under the age of 18 when the intended targets were others and the kids just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But at times children are deliberately chosen. Today’s featured attack is a prime example.

On this day in 2005, Islamist terrorists beheaded three Christian girls as they walked to a private school in Poso, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia: a fourth girl was badly injured. The head of the Sulawesi police noted that the motive for the crime was not important given that the victims were completely helpless girls.

Almost all the religiously motivated aggression this year has been directed against Christians: schoolgirls murdered as the army turns a blind eye. But the government would rather talk of gangsters, not jihadists, carrying out the attacks. I want to know why most of the weapons carried by these militants are army issue.

David, a lay preacher in Poso

Three Muslim terrorists confessed to the attack in May 2006. Indonesian prosecutors did not pursue a death penalty because the defendants had shown remorse and been forgiven by the victims’ families. The lead terrorist, who said he wanted to avenge the deaths of Muslims killed during previous religious violence in the country, was given 20 years in prison while his two accomplices were handed 14-year sentences.

Four girls going to school as they always did. Three gruesomely killed and the other badly wounded. And terrorists boast about this kind of action?

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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