JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian authorities detained seven people in northern Sumatra island on Saturday on suspicion of attacking several Buddhist temples the previous night, officials said.
A spokeswoman for North Sumatra provincial police said the seven were part of a mob that damaged at least three temples and other property in the town of Tanjung Balai, near Indonesia’s fourth-biggest city Medan. No one was injured.
Indonesia is a Muslim-majority nation but has a sizable ethnic Chinese minority, many of whom are Buddhist. The country has a history of anti-Chinese violence, most recently in the late 1990s amid the political and economic crisis that brought down authoritarian ruler Suharto.
But police officials denied Friday’s attack was aimed at the Chinese community.
“This was just a (dispute between) individuals,” said North Sumatra Police Spokeswoman Rina Sari Ginting, adding the situation was now under control.
Indonesia, where the majority of the population practices a moderate form of Islam, sees sporadic attacks on religious minorities by Muslim hardliners but authorities are quick to crack down on any violent incidents.
Hundreds of security personnel were deployed late last year when a Muslim mob burned down a number of churches in conservative Aceh province, saying they didn’t have the right building permits.
(Corrects second paragraph to read those detained were part of a mob, not leading it.)
Reporting by Agustinus Beo da Costa; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Kim Coghill