Sword-wielding attacker in Yogyakarta church shot by police

Police investigators working at the scene of the knife attack at the St Lidwina Church in Sleman, Yogyakarta, on Feb 11, 2018.
Police investigators working at the scene of the knife attack at the St Lidwina Church in Sleman, Yogyakarta, on Feb 11, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA  -  A sword-wielding man who went on a rampage in a church in Yogyakarta was shot and wounded by local police on Sunday (Feb 11).

Three members of the St Lidwina Bedog church in Sleman District, as well as a police officer responding to the incident, were injured as a result of the attack.

Witnesses said the attacker charged in through the main entrance of the church, hurting a member of the parish before heading towards the altar in the middle of Sunday Mass.

He also destroyed statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary during the attack, which lasted about 15 minutes before police arrived at the scene.

A member of the congregation Andhi Cahyo was quoted as saying that soon after the service started, a fellow member whose head was bleeding ran into the church chased by the man.

“Everybody started panicking and screaming. I was scrambling to save my wife and children,” Mr Cahyo was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.

He said that when the police arrived, they fired a warning shot but the attacker refused to surrender.

The attacker charged at one of the officers with his sword and was shot. But he somehow managed to injure the officer before being subdued, Mr Cahyo added.

All four people hurt in the attack, including parish head, Father Karl-Edmund Prier, were taken to hospital where they were treated for their injuries.

District police chief Muhammad Firman Lukmanul Hakim said the suspect, who suffered gunshot wounds to his legs, is being held at Bhayangkara Hospital, where he is also being treated. 

The police, who identified him as university student Suliono from Bayuwangi in East Java, are trying to establish where he lived in Yogyakarta.

The city, located about 500km south-east of Jakarta, is regarded as the cultural heart of Java, Indonesia’s main island.

The incident sparked fears of a terrorist attack on the church, but police said investigations were ongoing.

Similar incidents have occurred in Indonesia in recent years.

In August 2016, a knife-wielding assailant attacked a priest, also during Sunday service, at the St Joseph Catholic church in Medan, North Sumatra.

Three months later, a church in Samarinda, East Kalimantan was struck by a home-made bomb which injured four people.