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Indonesia: Family Mourns Toddler Killed in Church Attack

East Kalimantan, Indonesia
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Diana Susan Sinaga (left) and Marbun Banjarnahor join with family members to mourn at the coffin of Intan Olivia Banjarnahor before her burial in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, Nov. 15, 2016.
Diana Susan Sinaga (left) and Marbun Banjarnahor join with family members to mourn at the coffin of Intan Olivia Banjarnahor before her burial in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, Nov. 15, 2016.

Two-year-old Intan Olivia Banjarnahor wore a lace-trimmed pink hat and twirled around in a knee-length dress on Sunday, the morning she was fatally injured in a Molotov cocktail attack at a church in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province, her father recalled.

The victims of the attack were all children. Apart from Intan, whose family routinely attended Sunday services at the Oikumene Church in the Sengkotek area of Samarinda, the provincial capital, three other children – all under the age of 5 – were injured in the blast in front of the place of worship.

Among the others, Triniti Hutahaya, who is 3, remains in critical condition at a local hospital, her aunt said. The other two, Alvaro Aurelius Tristan Sinaga, 4, and Anita Kristobel Sihotang, 2, are still receiving medical care at the A.W. Sjahranie Hospital in Samarinda.

“The church is not far from home, and Intan was eager to go there to meet and play with her friends,” her father, Marbun, told BenarNews.

His voice quivering, he described how Intan waited impatiently that morning, tugging on her mother’s dress.

The attack on Nov. 13 marked the fourth time in recent months that suspected militants targeted members of Indonesia’s Christian minority – which represents 10 percent of the population of the Muslim majority nation – in acts of violence or other types of threats.

On Aug. 28, a would-be suicide bomber failed to detonate his bomb in a packed church in Medan, North Sumatra province, during Sunday Mass. The alleged perpetrator, an 18-year-old man, used an axe to attack a priest before being detained.

On Nov. 7, suspicious packages shaped like homemade bombs were found at the courtyard of a church in Bireuen, Aceh, and in a Buddhist temple in Lhokseumawe, Aceh province. Police determined that the packages were not bombs, but considered the incidents to be acts of terror.

And on Monday, two motorcyclists threw Molotov cocktails at a Buddhist monastery in West Kalimantan, and a Catholic church in East Java received a bomb threat, police said.

At least three suspects have been arrested in connection with Sunday’s attack in East Kalimantan. On the day of the attack, neighbors were able to capture the man suspected of throwing the Molotov cocktail. He was out on parole following his conviction on attempted bombing charges.

‘We could only pray’

Intan died from her injuries on Monday. Seventy percent of her body was burned in the explosion.

She was Marbun’s only daughter.

“We could only pray, we hoped that Jesus would save [her]. Her father was at a loss for words. Tears were streaming down his face as he held on to his daughter,” Balutan Julianto Banjarnahor, Intan’s uncle, told BenarNews, recalling the scene at the hospital.

The toddler was buried Tuesday at a Christian cemetery in Kutai Kartanegara.

“Intan was a cheerful kid. She just started talking and she liked to move to the music, imitating singers on television,” Marbun said the day after his niece’s funeral.

Triniti’s aunt said that the little girl’s mother remained  at her bedside at the hospital.

“Her mother is traumatized, especially after learning that Intan died. She was distressed even more,” the aunt, Roina Simanjuntak, told BenarNews as she waited in the foyer of the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit.

But on Wednesday morning, the hopes of Triniti’s family picked up.

“She cried and moaned after undergoing treatment to cleanse the smoke in her lungs,” Roina said.

Hospital director Rachim Dinata said the surviving patients should undergo the treatment.

“One of Intan’s causes of death was her swollen lungs. Other victims should undergo surgery to cleanse their lungs,” he told BenarNews.

“The two other victims suffered burns to about 16 percent of their bodies, so they also have to have their lungs cleansed,” Rachim said.

Suspect identified, two others arrested

The alleged attacker who was caught on Sunday was identified as Jo bin Muhammad Aceng Kurnia (alias Juhanda), who tried to escape by jumping into the nearby Mahakam River. He was a janitor and worked as a fish seller on the riverbank.

Five years ago, Juhanda was involved in a bomb plot at the Center for Science and Technology Research (Puspiptek) in Serpong, Banten province, and was paroled in July 2014 following his conviction in 2012, police said.

On Friday, members of Densus 88, the national anti-terror squad, arrested two men in East Kalimantan who were linked to the attack, according to provincial police spokesman Fajar Setiawan. Police could not release the identities of the men or their roles in the attack, but both remained under investigation, he said.

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