Indonesian church attacker wanted to fight with ISIS

A police investigator in the Yogyakarta Catholic church where a radical Islamist had attacked people attending a service on Sunday. The man also decapitated a Virgin Mary statue with his sword.
A police investigator in the Yogyakarta Catholic church where a radical Islamist had attacked people attending a service on Sunday. The man also decapitated a Virgin Mary statue with his sword.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA • An Indonesian who attacked a church congregation with a sword during Sunday Mass is a radical Islamist who had wanted to fight with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in Syria, police said yesterday.

Around 100 people were attending the service at a Catholic church in Yogyakarta when Suliyono, 23, barged in wielding a one-metre-long sword and began attacking people, seemingly indiscriminately.

Four people, including 81-year-old German-born priest Edmund Prier, who was standing at the altar, were seriously injured.

The extremist, who was later shot in the leg after ignoring a police warning shot, also decapitated a Virgin Mary statue with his sword.

"Suliyono had made a passport application as he attempted to go to Syria, but the application failed. He ended up launching the attack here," said national police chief Tito Karnavian.

He said police are still investigating whether Suliyono was a "lone wolf terrorist" or part of a group.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country, also has large numbers of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists, but there are concerns over rising intolerance.

Separately, the Indonesian leader of an ISIS-linked militant group was jailed for seven years yesterday over plans to smuggle weapons from the southern Philippines, a court said.

Zainal Anshori, 43, head of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, was found guilty of committing a "criminal act of terrorism" by the Jakarta court.

His group is believed to be responsible for several terror plots in Indonesia, including a January 2016 attack in Jakarta that left eight people dead, including four militants.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2018, with the headline 'Indonesian church attacker wanted to fight with ISIS'. Print Edition | Subscribe