Family of suicide bombers kills 13

Indonesian churches target of terror attacks

A forensic police officer takes pictures of debris near burned out motorcycles following a blast at the Pentecost Church Central Surabaya in Indonesia
A forensic police officer takes pictures of debris near burned out motorcycles following a blast at the Pentecost Church Central Surabaya in Indonesia

A family of six, including two young daughters, staged suicide bombings at three Indonesian churches during services yesterday, killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens in attacks claimed by the Islamic State group.

The bombings at three churches in Surabaya were Indonesia’s deadliest for years, as the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country grapples with homegrown militancy and rising intolerance towards religious minorities.

The bombers -- a mother and father, two daughters aged nine and 12, and two sons aged 16 and 18 -- were linked to local extremist network Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (Jad) which supports IS, national police chief Tito Karnavian said.

Media reports say they may have returned from Syria, where hundreds of Indonesians have flocked in recent years to fight alongside IS in its bid to carve out a caliphate ruled by strict Islamic law.

The mother, identified as Puji Kuswati, and her two daughters were wearing niqab face veils and had bombs strapped to their waists as they entered the grounds of the Kristen Indonesia Diponegoro Church and blew themselves up.

The father, Jad cell leader Dita Priyanto, drove a bomb-laden car into the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church while his sons rode motorcycles into Santa Maria church, where they detonated explosives they were carrying, Karnavian said.

“All were suicide attacks, but the types of bombs are different,” he said.

The group, led by jailed radical Aman Abdurrahman, has been linked to several deadly incidents, including a 2016 gun and suicide attack in the capital Jakarta that left four attackers and four civilians dead.

That was the first assault claimed by IS in Southeast Asia.

Police yesterday said four suspected Jad members had been killed in a shootout during raids linked to a deadly prison riot this week.

Five members of Indonesia’s elite anti-terrorism squad and a prisoner were killed in clashes that saw Islamist inmates take a guard hostage at a high-security jail on the outskirts of Jakarta. IS claimed responsibility.
Karnavian said yesterday’s attacks may have been revenge for the arrest of some of Jad’s leaders and for the prison crisis which eventually saw the surrender of the radical inmates.

The Pope offered support over the severe attack against places of worship, while President Joko Widodo called for Indonesians to unite against terrorism.

East Java police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera confirmed the deaths of 13 people, with about 40 injured, in the coordinated attacks.

Images showed a vehicle engulfed in flames and plumes of thick black smoke as a body lay outside the gate of Santa Maria Catholic church, with motorcycles toppled over amid the mangled debris.

In addition to the suicide blast, police experts defused two unexploded bombs at the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church.

Nearly 90% of Indonesia’s 260 million people are Muslim, but there are significant numbers of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.

Concerns about sectarian intolerance have been on the rise, with churches targeted in the past.

In 2000, bombs disguised as Christmas gifts delivered to churches and clergymen killed 19 people on Christmas Eve and injured scores more across the country.

The archipelago nation of about 17 000 islands has long struggled with Islamic militancy, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people -- mostly foreign tourists -- in the country’s worstever terror attack.

Analysts said the coordinated nature of yesterday’s bombings suggested a higher level of planning.

“Recent attacks have been far less professional,” Sidney Jones, an expert on Southeast Asian terrorism and director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, said. – AFP