The villages of Sepe and Silanca, some 10 miles from the city of Poso, have been burned to the ground. Reports from several sources confirm that August 12 attacks on the Christian villages started after armed forces guarding the villages were unexpectedly withdrawn.

Sepe, with a population of 1,250, was attacked at 6:30 p.m. by a large group of men dressed in black and firing automatic weapons. Some villagers tried to fend off the attackers with farming implements and bamboo spears but soon joined the rest of the villagers in flight.

"The sound of automatic weapons was coming from every direction mixed with the hysterical voices of mothers calling for their children, and shrieks of fear from the children," said the Rev. Vence Waani, pastor of the Sepe Pentecostal Church. "The flames were engulfing the houses. It was a scene of horror."

Waani, his wife, and child were forced to flee the burning village as attackers fired volleys of bullets behind them. They did not see their newly-rebuilt church burnt down.

By 8:30p.m., the village of Sepe was gutted. The Sepe Pentecostal Church and the Eklesia Protestant Church were destroyed. The attackers moved on to Silanca where they followed the same pattern. They chased away the villagers, looted their houses and then set them alight.

All the Christians from the two villages—some 2,500—sought refuge in Pandiri and Watuawu, further south of Poso on the road to Tentena. Their number is now increased by villagers from neighboring Tambaro and Maliwuko who no longer feel protected by the armed forces. One report states that four trucks carrying a small army unit drove to Silanca and Sepe once the attacks were over.

Suspicions of collusion between the armed forces and the Muslim extremists have ...

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