Indonesian church suicide bombers are husband and wife, married six months ago

Indonesian police found explosives on Monday in a raid in the city of Bekasi, related to Sunday's suicide attack on a cathedral on Sulawesi island.
An Indonesian anti-terror policeman stands guard as police seal the area after an explosion outside a church in Makassar, South Sulawesi, on March 28, 2021.
An Indonesian anti-terror policeman stands guard as police seal the area after an explosion outside a church in Makassar, South Sulawesi, on March 28, 2021.PHOTO: AFP
 Indonesian police examine the site outside a church after an explosion in Makassar, South Sulawesi, on March 28, 2021.
Indonesian police examine the site outside a church after an explosion in Makassar, South Sulawesi, on March 28, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Two suicide bombers who blew themselves up at the gate of a Catholic church in South Sulawesi's provincial capital Makassar on Sunday (March 28) are a married couple, the Indonesian police said on Monday.

A blast at the cathedral on Palm Sunday, the first day of the Holy Week leading up to Good Friday and Easter, killed both bombers, who carried out the attack with a pressure cooker bomb, and injured 19 people, including the church's security officers and churchgoers.

The husband, identified as L, and his wife, identified as YSF, married six months ago, National Police spokesman Argo Yuwono said. The police had raided a number of places, including the house of the bombers, to collect evidence, he noted.

"The perpetrators are affiliated to the JAD," he said in reference to local extremist group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah.

He added: "The investigation still continues to uncover other perpetrators."

Members of the Islamic State-inspired JAD were responsible for suicide attacks in 2018 on churches and a police post in Indonesia's second-largest city Surabaya that killed over 30 people. The militants were willing to use their wives and children as cover for the suicide bombings.

In early January, the police arrested 20 terror suspects linked to the JAD in Makassar. Two of them resisted arrest and were shot dead. Both of them were believed to have helped finance a bomb attack on a church in Jolo, the Philippines, in 2019 that killed over 20 people.

National Police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo said in a press conference on Monday that one of the shot militants had facilitated the marriage of the Makassar church suicide bombers.

He noted that the male bomber wrote a farewell note to his parents which said he would “die as a martyr”.

“We continue to discover perpetrators and evidence. We certainly will investigate the entire network completely,” General Listyo said. 

Observers have pointed out the possibility that the Makassar bombing was retaliation for the January arrests.

On Monday police arrested four people in Makassar who belonged to the same religious study group as the suicide bombers.

Another person affiliated to the JAD was arrested in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, adding to the four people arrested there on Sunday.

The police also raided a number of locations on Monday, including in East Jakarta and Bekasi regency, West Java where they found bombs and explosive material. Four people were arrested.

As at Monday, 15 of the 19 people injured from the bombing on Sunday were still being treated at the hospital.

Singapore condemns church bombing

Singapore on Monday (March 29) condemned the bombing outside the Makassar Cathedral Church in South Sulawesi, saying nothing can justify violence against innocent civilians and places of worship.

“We wish those who were injured a speedy and full recovery, and support the Indonesian government’s efforts to ensure public safety,” it said, in a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The ministry also noted that there were no reports of any Singaporeans being affected by the incident.

It advised those in need of consular assistance to contact the Singapore Embassy in Jakarta at +62 811 863 348 or the MFA Duty Office at +65 6379 8800/8855. 

It also reminded Singaporeans overseas to e-Register with the ministry.


Forensic policemen carry a body bag in front of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar, South Sulawesi, on March 28, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE