Indonesia: Family of Suicide Bombers Launches Deadly Attacks on 3 Churches

Yovinus Guntur
Surabaya, Indonesia
180513-ID-bomb-620.jpg Police tape seals off the area around the Surabaya Central Pentecostal Church in Surabaya after it was targeted in a deadly terrorist attack, May 13, 2018.
Yovinus Guntur/BenarNews

Updated at 5:33 p.m. ET on 2018-05-13

At least 13 people died and more than 40 others were injured Sunday when a couple and their four children set off suicide bombs at three churches in Indonesia’s second largest city, Surabaya, in the worst terrorist attack in the country in two years, police and witnesses said.

The couple and their two boys, aged 16 and 18 and two girls, aged 9 and 12, were linked to Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a local group inspired by the Islamic State (IS), National Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian said. IS later claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency.

“The father drove the Toyota Avanza carrying his wife and their two children. He dropped his wife and two daughters, 12 and 9, at GKI,” Karnavian said, referring to one of the three targeted churches.

“[He] then drove the car containing bombs to the Pentecostal Church and blew it up. Meanwhile, two boys set out on their own riding a motorbike to Santa Maria’s church. Both blew themselves up in front of the church.”

Agence France-Presse identified the father as Dita Priyanto, while news reports identified the mother as Puji Kuswati.

Police said Dita led the JAD branch in East Java province, whose capital is Surabaya. The suicide bombings were the first involving a woman and children in Indonesia, officials said.

Earlier on Sunday in West Java province, police said they killed four suspected militants who resisted arrest.

Sunday’s bombings took place a few days before the start of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan and amid a growing climate of intolerance by conservative religious groups in Muslim-majority Indonesia against members of its small Christian minority.

The attacks were the deadliest targeting Christians since 2000, when 18 people were killed when homemade bombs disguised as holiday presents exploded at some churches across the country on Christmas Eve.

The churches attacked in Surabaya on Sunday were the Santa Maria Tak Bercela Catholic Church, the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) of Surabaya and the Surabaya Central Pentecostal Church (GPPS).

A witness described the attack at Santa Maria Tak Bercela Catholic Church.

“I just came out of a street stall and immediately there was a loud explosion,” Pembayun Abi Prahara told BenarNews.

“There were some pieces of bodies scattered. Looking at the pieces, I realized that this is a bombing,” he said.

Meanwhile, a witness to the GKI bombing, Mulyo Hartono, said he saw a woman wearing purdah - a head covering signifying she was of the Muslim faith - 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,” he said. “It seems the two children did not survive.”

Mulyo tried to help the security officer but stopped after he saw a backpack on one of the children.

“Then I heard the second explosion,” he said.

East Java police spokesman Senior Commissioner Frans Barung Mangera said 13 people were confirmed dead and 41 who were injured were being treated at several hospitals in Surabaya as of Sunday evening.

The first church attack occurred at 7:08 a.m. (local time) and was followed by the second and third attacks within minutes, witnesses told BenarNews.

Police officers stand guard near Indonesian Christians Church in Surabaya, May 13, 2018. (Yovinus Guntur/BenarNews)
Police officers stand guard near Indonesian Christians Church in Surabaya, May 13, 2018. (Yovinus Guntur/BenarNews)


Barung said the police bomb squad unit found three undetonated bombs in two of the churches.

“One was found at the GKI and two more active bombs were found at the Pentecostal Church,” he said.

After meeting with victims who had been taken to area hospitals, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo inspected the bombing scenes. He was accompanied by Karnavian, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto, Military Commander Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto and State Intelligence Agency chief Budi Gunawan.

“Terrorist acts this time are really barbaric and out of bounds against humanity, causing harm to community members, police officers and innocent children,” Jokowi told reporters after visiting the Police Bhayangkara Hospital in Surabaya.

He added that terrorism was a crime against humanity that had nothing to do with any religion.

“All religious teachings reject the doctrine of terrorism whatever the reason,” he said.

The president said he ordered the national police chief to investigate the militant networks responsible for the attacks and to dismantle them at their roots.

Densus 88 kills four

In other developments on Sunday, 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.

“Police took firm action because the four resisted by shooting at officers who attempted to arrest them,” national police spokesman Setyo Wasisto told reporters in Jakarta.

Sunday’s violence occurred several 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.

“Based on intelligence information, they were on the way to Brimob headquarters. They planned to conduct a hit-and-run attack with weapons and arrows,” Setyo said.

JAD was blamed for the prison riot earlier this week. The group 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.

Indonesia’s worst ever terror attack occurred in Bali in 2002 when bombs killed 202 people, mostly tourists. More recently, a gun and bomb attack in Jakarta in January 2016 killed four attackers and four civilians in the first assault on Indonesian soil claimed by IS.


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