(RNS) The chief suspect in last year's slaying of Australianmissionary Graham Staines and his two young sons has been arrested byIndian police, authorities said Tuesday.

The murder of Staines and his two boys, burned to death Jan. 23,1999 as they slept in their jeep after a Bible study, attractedworldwide attention.

Shortly after the murder, police identified Hindu militant DaraSingh as the main suspect in the case. Despite an intense manhunt and a$23,250 reward, Hindu villagers in the eastern state of Orissasuccessfully hid Singh over the past year.

Singh has been wanted in connection with several criminal cases andhas been on the run since allegedly leading the mob that attackedStaines. He was arrested with two of his sons as he sought to buy a gun,according to news reports.

The attack on Staines, a Baptist missionary who had worked withleprosy patients in India since 1965, came amid increased frictionbetween militant Hindus and Christians. Some Hindu leaders have accusedChristians in India of engaging in forced conversions.

Christians vehemently deny the charge.

Staines' widow, Gloria, said shortly after the killing that sheforgave the killers. Nevertheless, she expressed pleasure Tuesday thatSingh had been arrested so "he will not be able to kill others."

"Hundreds of thousands of people all over India, irrespective ofcaste, creed, have said Dara's action was not Hinduism and that theywere ashamed of the deed," she told Reuters Tuesday.

While Christians welcomed the arrest, they also expressed concernabout a recent order on conversion issued by the Orissa stategovernment.

The order mandates a police inquiry before anyone adopts a new faithin the state.

"The notice has been served only to Christians," Isaac Puthensngany,a priest in the Catholic diocese where Staines was killed, told Reuters.

"Conversion from Christianity is not taken into consideration by thesepeople."