Jan 8, 2010

IGP confirms three churches hit

Assailants attacked three Malaysian churches with firebombs Friday, extensively damaging one amid a growing conflict over the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims, officials said. The attacks sharply escalated tensions in the Muslim-majority country ahead of planned protests by Muslims later Friday against a Kuala Lumpur High Court verdict which struck down a 3-year-old ban on non-Muslims using “Allah” in their literature.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8 — Police are urging for calm as they secure churches nationwide, after three were attacked with firebombs in separate pre-dawn incidents in the Klang Valley, which have been linked to protests against the recent “Allah” ruling.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan confirmed the attacks, saying the first attack was by motorcyclists who threw a helmet filled with flammable liquid at the Metro Tabernacle Church in Desa Melawati, causing a fire that burned books and chairs near here, at midnight. Its administrative office was gutted in the attack.

He confirmed that they have identified one suspect who was seen by a guard at the church, which is part of the Assemblies of God.

“This is not a well-planned, coordinated attack so people should not be scared,” he told reporters at Bukit Aman here.

The second attack was at about 4am at the Church of Assumption in Petaling Jaya, where a Molotov cocktail thrown by a motorcyclist failed to break and explode. There were several Catholics attending a prayer session at the time, police added.

The third incident took place at the Life Chapel Church in Section 17, Petaling Jaya at 9am, where two Molotov cocktails, also thrown by a motorcyclist, exploded to blacken the walls of the porch and upper-storey window of the two-storey church building.

Musa also confirmed that he has a received a phone call from an undisclosed church saying there have been threats against them.

The national police chief had directed his men to be alert nationwide and all patrol teams to monitor churches since 6pm yesterday.

“I advise all the churches to make police reports if they receive any threats or they can contact me directly at 019-282-3701,” Musa said.

Musa said that the motives of the attack are still unknown. Police forensic teams and fire investigators have swung into action searching for clues in the three attacks.

The top cop also warned the demonstrators that the police will take the necessary action and every means to ensure national security including using the Internal Security Act (ISA) to dampen rising tension in the country.

"I will do whatever is needed to ensure that the country is safe," he promised.

He reiterated that the demonstrations being planned after Friday prayers today were illegal as no permits have been issued.

"I have told all of my officers to monitor all the mosques in the country, especially those that will have the demonstrations," he said.

He said that every individual, including those writing blogs including updates in the social networking website Facebook, will be investigated for sedition if they flamed sentiments and encouraged people to break the law.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein also condemned the attacks.

"I am assuring not only minorities but all Malaysians that they are safe. The issue of race and religion is always sensitive and it is not something new to Malaysia.

"We saw the signs, signals, warning after the court made its decision. We have been monitoring the situation," he said.

He added that the government has always and will engage with religious leaders in the country which is in line with the prime minister's vision of 1 Malaysia.

Hishamuddin again denied he and the PM had condoned the planned demonstrations.

"We never said that the demonstration could go on, do not put words in my mouth," he said. Hishammuddin and Najib, who are cousins, have said over the past few days that Muslim groups have a right to express their feelings about the “Allah” ruling but they should not break the law.

Hishammauddin also laughed off allegations made by Pakatan Rakyat that the Umno-led government should take responsibility for the spate of church attacks.

"If they want to blame us for the attacks, then the Pakatan Selangor government should take responsibility (because all the attacks happened in the state)," he said.

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