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Friday, April 15, 2005

Indonesian president told to slaughter 1,000 sheep to ward off quakes

JAKARTA, April 13 (AFP) -- Indonesia's president said Tuesday he had been told to slaughter 1,000 sheep to prevent a repeat of the disastrous quakes that have hit his country, but he rejected the advice as superstitious nonsense.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he had been bombarded with telephone text messages, or SMS, saying sacrificial lambs could calm the seismic forces that have claimed thousands of lives.

"I have received many SMSs which say: 'Mr. President, please slaughter 1,000 sheep'," Yudhoyono was quoted as saying by the state news agency Antara.

Yudhoyono urged the public not to believe in superstitions, saying that earthquakes were a natural phenomenon and could be explained scientifically.

Indonesia is a mainly Muslim country but belief in ancient mystic practices is still ingrained in the lives of many citizens.

The magnitude 9.3 earthquake off Indonesia's Sumatra island last December generated a massive tidal wake that killed some 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, most of them in Indonesia.

Another large tremor on the same Indian Ocean geological faultline killed more than 670 people on the Indonesian island of Nias last month.

Experts have warned that another powerful earthquake is likely to happen in the area.

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