PALU, Indonesia: September 22, 2006. Christian mobs torched cars, blockaded roads and looted Muslim-owned shops in violence touched off on executions of three Roman Catholics convicted of instigating attacks on Muslims.
Some 200 inmates escaped after mobs assaulted a jail in the town of Atambua, sending guards fleeing to the nearby jungle. By midday only 20 had been recaptured, deputy national police chief Lt. Gen. Adang Dorodjatun said, calling on the others to turn themselves in.
And on the island of Flores, the executed men's birthplace, machete-wielding mobs ran through the streets Friday, sending women and children running in panic, police and witnesses said.
Police and media reports said at least five people were hurt, including a prosecutor who was hospitalized with stab wounds.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla appealed for calm, saying the deaths of the three men had nothing to do with religion.
"It's a matter of law," he told reporters in the capital Jakarta. "If the people resent the law, we are doomed."
Fabianus Tibo, 60, Marinus Riwu, 48, and Dominggus da Silva, 42, were found guilty of leading a Christian militia that launched a series of attacks on Muslims in May 2000 that left at least 70 people dead.
Human rights workers say the men's 2001 trial was a sham, and that while it was possible the men took part in some of the violence, they almost certainly were not the leaders.
The men were taken before the firing squad at 12:15 a.m. (2:15 p.m. EDT Thursday), said a senior police officer who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Family members later said they had received confirmation of the deaths.
Palu, where the executions took place, was largely calm, with thousands of police standing on street corners and guarding markets and churches. But violence flared in the Sulawesi villages of Tentena and Lage, where hundreds of Christians rampaged after learning of the deaths.
Thousands also rallied in the eastern province of East Nusatenggara, home to many Roman Catholics, blockading roads and setting fire to government buildings, including a courthouse and a prosecutor's office.
Some 200 prisoners escaped in the town of Atambua, and only 20 had been recaptured by mid-afternoon, deputy national police chief Lt. Gen. Adang Dorodjatun said, calling on the others to turn themselves in.
In carrying out the death sentence, Indonesia ignored an appeal last month by Pope Benedict XVI to spare the men. A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told the Italian news agency ANSA that news of the execution "was very sad and painful."
The European Union also criticized the executions; capital punishment is banned in the 25-member bloc.