Family of six behind deadly Surabaya church bombings

The scene following one of the suicide attacks at the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church, in this photo provided by Antara Foto. Police said the attackers comprised a husband and wife, their two sons aged 15 and 17, and two daughters aged nine and 12
The scene following one of the suicide attacks at the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church, in this photo provided by Antara Foto. Police said the attackers comprised a husband and wife, their two sons aged 15 and 17, and two daughters aged nine and 12.PHOTO: REUTERS

At least 13 killed, 40 wounded in attacks on 3 churches during morning services

A family of six carried out suicide bombings at three churches in Surabaya, in Indonesia's East Java province, yesterday morning, killing at least 13 people and wounding 40 others, police said.

The attacks took place at Santa Maria Church, GKI Diponegoro Church and Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church as they were holding morning services. The bombings in Indonesia's second-largest city, which were claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), were the deadliest in years, as the country grapples with home-grown militancy and rising intolerance of religious minorities.

Police chief Tito Karnavian said the family members - a husband and wife, with two sons aged 15 and 17, and two daughters aged nine and 12 - were linked to Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an ISIS-affiliated terror network.

Terror analysts said this was the first-ever suicide bombing by a woman in Indonesia and the first time that children had been involved in attacks in the country.

The sons carried out the first bombing on Santa Maria Church. They were on a motorcycle and were said to have carried the explosives on their laps.

General Tito said the mother and her two daughters detonated belt bombs at GKI Diponegoro Church.

The father, who was driving a car with explosives, hit Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church.

"All were suicide attacks, but the types of bombs were different," Gen Tito told reporters.

Graphic video footage and photographs from the site of the Santa Maria Church bombing showed several people lying on the ground and a boy covered in blood being carried away. At the Pentecostal Church, fire engulfed motorcycles with thick, black smoke billowing up. Police said a bomb squad safely detonated an unexploded bomb that was discovered in the church.

The streets around the churches were later blocked by heavily armed police as forensic and bomb squad officers combed the areas for clues.

Officials said a planned attack on a fourth church, Cathedral Church, was foiled with the arrest of a suspected bomber.

 
 
 

"Police arrested a person who was about to attack the otherwise fourth target, the Cathedral Church. It has been foiled," Surabaya Deputy Mayor Wisnu Sakti Buana told Elshinta radio.

President Joko Widodo condemned the attacks as he visited one of the sites. "This act is barbaric and beyond the limits of humanity, causing victims among members of society, the police and even innocent children," he said.

A source told The Straits Times that the family was a sleeper cell under JAD founder Aman Abdurrahman, who is on trial for masterminding a 2016 terror attack in central Jakarta that killed four.

Police said they are hunting those who provided the bombs.

JAD first became known to Indonesian intelligence agencies in 2015, when almost two dozen extremist groups pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

At the news briefing alongside Gen Tito, Mr Joko said: "I have instructed police to look into and break up networks of perpetrators."

Meanwhile, Jakarta police spokesman Setyo Wasisto said police killed four members of JAD in Cianjur, in West Java province, at around 2am yesterday. They were on their way to Brimob (Mobile Brigade Corps) headquarters, and police are investigating if they were linked to the Surabaya attacks.

Last night, another bomb exploded on the fifth floor of a block of flats in Sidoarjo regency, about 30km south of Surabaya, injuring five. Police are also investigating this incident.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2018, with the headline 'Family of six behind deadly Surabaya church bombings'. Print Edition | Subscribe