Updated at 5:35 p.m. ET on 2018-05-14
As many as 32 Indonesians have died in a surge of terrorist attacks and counter-terror operations during the last 48 hours, including the country’s first two suicide bombings perpetrated by entire families, which were claimed by the Islamic State.
The incidents, most of them in East Java, left 13 victims and 19 suspected terrorists dead and dozens injured, according to police.
One day after a family of six carried out triple church-bombings in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, another family attacked the city’s police headquarters early Monday, police said.
Four members of the family that perpetrated Monday’s attack were killed in the blasts, but a fifth member, a girl around 8 years old, emerged from it covered in blood, authorities said. They said the young girl was on a motorcycle driven by attackers.
“Four people killed, while the girl was thrown off and survived,” Indonesian national police chief Tito Karnavian told a news conference, adding that six civilians and four officers were wounded in the attack.
It took place after an entire family, including girls aged 9 and 12, blew themselves up in near simultaneous bomb attacks that targeted three churches in Surabaya, the capital of East Java province, around the time of Sunday services, according to authorities. As of Monday night, the death toll in the bombings targeting members of Indonesia’s Christian minority stood at 19, including the six perpetrators, police said.
Police blamed the church attacks and the attack on police headquarters on Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a local group inspired by Islamic State.
“They chose Surabaya because they controlled this area. They launched the actions because their leaders were arrested. The instruction came from the central ISIS in Syria,” Karnavian told reporters, using another acronym for IS.
Police identified the father of the family that carried out Sunday’s attack as Dita Apriyanto, 47, and said he was the leader of JAD’s Surabaya cell. They identified his wife as Puji Kuswati, 43.
A witness, Mulyo Hartono, said he saw a woman wearing purdah – a Muslim head covering and veil – walking with two children who were dressed the same way entering the church.
“A church security officer tried to prohibit them, then the explosion happened,” Mulyo said.
The attack on Sunday was the first time that a woman and children were killed while mounting a suicide attack in Indonesia, police said.
Blasts captured by CCTV
Monday’s explosions took place around 9:30 a.m. Footage from closed-circuit TV showed two motorcycles stopped at a checkpoint at the entrance to police headquarters when a pair of bombs went off, Karnavian said.
A Surabaya police officer, who happened to be nearby, rushed over and picked up the bloodied girl as she staggered near the prone bodies of a man and a woman believed to be her parents, the national police chief said. Police believe the other two suspects killed belonged to the same family.
About two hours earlier, officers raided a housing complex in Sukodono, Sidoarjo, about 30 kms (18 miles) from Surabaya, arresting three suspected terrorists and killing two others, East Java provincial police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera said.
Jokowi demands action from lawmakers
Reacting to the spate of attacks, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called on the House of Representatives (DPR) to urgently revise the nation’s anti-terrorism law when its session resumed on Friday, or he would issue a regulation in lieu of law to empower law enforcers in the war against terror.
The planned revision was introduced in February 2016, just weeks after a Jan. 14, 2016, attack in Jakarta that killed four civilians and four militants. Jokowi and others have said the revision was needed because the law does not include any preventative measures, meaning it is not illegal to travel abroad to join a terrorist organization.
M. Safi’I, the chairman of a special House committee on anti-terrorism, responded that the revision was still not finished because there was no agreement between the administration and DPR regarding the definition and elements of terrorism.
“The agreed points include crime, massive terror to the community, inflicting casualties, destruction of strategic vital objects and there are political motives and objectives,” he told BenarNews.
He said discussions had been postponed because the word “politics” was omitted from the definition of terrorism.
“This we do not agree on because all acts of terrorism must have a political element,” he said, adding that his committee was unsure when the bill would be passed.
Boy succumbs to injuries
Late Sunday, an 8-year-old boy who had been injured at Santa Maria Catholic Church, one of the three bombed churches, died of his injuries, according to a press statement issued by Bedah Hospital in Surabaya where he was being treated.
Also on Sunday night, an explosion in an apartment building in Wonocolo, Sidoarjo killed a couple and their child while two other children were injured, according to Frans. Police suspect that the three who died were planning a terror attack. Police identified the head of the household as Anton Ferdiantono, 46, and said he was a bombmaker.
Earlier in the day, members of the nation’s elite police wing, Densus 88, shot and killed four suspected terrorists in West Java province’s Cianjur district, authorities said.
The ongoing violence occurred days after inmates rioted at a maximum-security detention center at the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) headquarters in West Java’s Depok district, leaving five police officers and an inmate dead.
JAD, which was blamed for the prison riot, is led by Aman Abdurrahman, who is detained at Brimob and who police allowed to speak to the rioters in response to one of their demands.
Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based think-tank Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), said IS wanted to deliver a message to Indonesia.
“Mako Brimob was not spontaneous, but planned long before the incident. It is too early to know for sure whether what happened in Kelapa Dua, Cianjur and Surabaya were related, or whether more than one group is involved,” she told BenarNews.
“Although ISIS has been defeated in Syria and Iraq, leaders want to prove that in Indonesia it is still functioning,” she said using another acronym for IS.
Sunday’s church terror attacks were the deadliest since the January 2016 Jakarta attack. Indonesian authorities also blamed JAD for that attack, the first terrorist strike claimed by IS in Southeast Asia.