JAKARTA (Reuters) – An Indonesian court sentenced a man to death on Monday for killing eight people in attacks in the Moluccas islands that sparked fears of sectarian bloodshed in the region, local media reported.
The court in the islands’ main city of Ambon said that Assep Djaja and his accomplices had carried out what it said were terrorist attacks in two villages in the islands last year and in 2004.
Four policemen guarding a Christian enclave surrounded by Muslim villages were killed in the attack last year.
“What the defendant had done was sadistic and inhumane,” Antara national agency quoted the court as saying in its ruling.
The Moluccas islands, 1,440 miles east of Jakarta, was the scene of vicious communal fighting between Muslims and Christians from 1999 to 2002 which left more than 5,000 dead.
The conflict also drew Muslim militants from groups such as the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah, a Southeast Asian network blamed for numerous bomb attacks across Indonesia.
Since a 2002 truce between Muslim and Christian communities, sectarian battles have subsided on the islands although violence still sporadically erupts.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation with about 85 percent of its 220 million population following Islam. Ambon, like many areas in the country’s east, has a roughly equal proportion of Muslims and Christians.