Indonesia's first female suicide bomber a mum of 4

Police and soldiers examining the area after an attack outside the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church in East Java yesterday. The attack was one of three carried out by a family on churches in Surabaya. Puji Kuswati, 46, and her family, including her
Police and soldiers examining the area after an attack outside the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church in East Java yesterday. The attack was one of three carried out by a family on churches in Surabaya. Puji Kuswati, 46, and her family, including her two sons and two daughters, were linked to Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, an ISIS-affiliated terror network.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The family of six behind the suicide bombings at three churches in Surabaya, in Indonesia's East Java province, yesterday morning. At least 13 people were killed and 40 others wounded.
The family of six behind the suicide bombings at three churches in Surabaya, in Indonesia's East Java province, yesterday morning. At least 13 people were killed and 40 others wounded.PHOTO: INDONESIAN POLICE

The photos Indonesia's first female suicide bomber Puji Kuswati had posted on social media showed she enjoyed the beach, did river rafting and kept cats as pets.

Born in Banyuwangi, East Java, the 46-year-old had 268 friends on Facebook and liked to post pictures of creeks, beaches, mangrove forests and the padi fields in her home town.

She also posted photos showing the happy faces of her two sons and two daughters, and also the family's cats.

On her Facebook page, however, there was only one photo of her with the children as they finished a round of river rafting. There were no photos of her husband, a high school graduate who worked as a merchant.

Then about 31/2 years ago, Puji stopped using Facebook. The last photo was of the family's cats, posted on Oct 7, 2014.

She listed her employer on her Facebook personal profile as Azzam Corp.

Further checks showed her boss to be a person named Rohim Binjai, a director of the company. He claimed to work for the Islamic caliphate. His last Facebook post was on April 16, 2011.

  • Family of bombers

  • • Father: Dita Oepriarto, 46

    • Occupation: Merchant

    Drove a car containing explosives and rammed it into the gate of the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church.

    • Mother: Puji Kuswati, 42

    • Occupation: Company employee

    • Daughters: Fadhila Sari, 12, and Famela Rizqita, nine

    The mother and her daughters carried out the attack at the GKI Diponegoro Church. Wearing niqab face veils and with bombs strapped to their waists, they entered the grounds of the church and blew themselves up. It was the first suicide bombing by a woman in Indonesia.

    • Sons: Yusuf Fadhil, 17, and Firman Halim, 15

    The two, both elementary school drop outs, carried out the Santa Maria Church bombing. They were on a motorcycle and carried the explosives "across their laps", said police.

    Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja

Surabaya's police chief, Colonel Rudi Setiawan, said police searched the family's home last night as part of the investigation. They found evidence showing the family practised archery, but gave no further details.

A police source told The Straits Times that Puji's family - husband, wife and four children - was a sleeper cell of terrorist ideologue Aman Abdurrahman, the founder of Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD).

Aman, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is on trial for inciting others to commit various terror attacks, and a verdict is expected in the coming weeks. The attacks included one in Jakarta in 2016 that left four bystanders dead.

Yesterday's Surabaya church attacks were the second largest after the attacks in 2000 on 12 churches across Indonesia that killed 18.

About 600 people turned up to donate blood yesterday, local reports said.

In the past two years, Indonesia has seen at least four church attacks. On Feb 11, a 22-year-old man attacked and injured four worshippers with a sword at St Lidwina Church in Sleman, Yogyakarta. A policeman who tried to calm the man down was also wounded. The man attacked a priest who was directing a choir and vandalised the statues of Jesus and Mary near the altar.

In April last year, Jago Ambarawa Church in Semarang, Central Java, was hit by Molotov cocktails that a 37-year-old man had tossed at the south gate. No one was hurt.

 

On Nov 13, 2016, a homemade bomb in the bag of an attacker riding a motorcycle exploded in front of the Oikumene Church in Samarinda, East Kalimantan. A two-year-old girl was killed and three children were severely injured.

On Aug 28, 2016, a man carrying a small bomb in his backpack suffered light injuries when the device went off during Sunday mass at St Joseph Church in Medan, North Sumatra. He tried to attack the priest with an axe but was restrained by churchgoers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2018, with the headline 'Indonesia's first female suicide bomber a mum of 4'. Print Edition | Subscribe