Suspected suicide bombing targets Indonesian Catholic Church on Palm Sunday

Two suspected suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a Catholic church in the Indonesian city of Makassar on Sunday, injuring fourteen people on the first day of the Easter weekend, the country’s national police said.

The congregation had been inside the church on the island of Sulawesi at the time of the explosion, police said just as the mass ended.

Local police had previously said that the bomber had acted alone.

Authorities are investigating what radical networks the bombers came from and whether the attack was linked to recently arrested suspected militants, National Police spokesman Argo Yuwono said.

In January, a terrorist unit raided a militant hideout in Makassar, killing two men suspected by police of involvement in twin bombings at a 2019 Philippine church that killed more than 20 people.

Father Wilhemus Tulak, a priest at the church, told Indonesian media that a suspected bomber tried to enter the church grounds on a motorcycle but had been stopped by a security guard.

Pictures from security cameras showed an explosion that blew fire, smoke and debris in the middle of the road.

Police did not say who could be responsible for the attack and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Police blamed Islamic State-inspired Jamaah Ansharut Daulah group for 2018 suicide attacks on churches and a police post in the city of Surabaya that killed more than 30 people.

“Terrorist act”

The boy Rafli Amar, the head of the country’s national anti-terrorism agency, described Sunday’s attack as an act of terrorism.

Makassar Mayor Danny Pomanto said the blast could have caused many more deaths if it had taken place at the church’s main gate instead of a side entrance.

Makassar, Sulawesis’ largest city, reflects the religious composition of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim majority country with a significant Christian minority and adherents of other religions.

“Regardless of the motive, this act is not motivated by any religion because it harms not only one person but also others,” said Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, Indonesia’s Minister of Religion, in a statement.

Gomar Gultom, head of the Indonesian Church Council, described the attack as a “cruel incident” when Christians celebrated Palm Sunday and urged people to remain calm and trust the authorities.

Indonesia’s deadliest Islamist militant attack took place on tourist Bali in 2002, when bombers killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

In the following years, the security forces in Indonesia made some great progress in dealing with the militant, but recently militant violence has resurfaced.

(REUTERS)