Surviving children of slain Surabaya terrorists in rehab

Police stand guard outside their Surabaya headquarters following last month's suicide attack, which killed most of the bomber's family.
Police stand guard outside their Surabaya headquarters following last month's suicide attack, which killed most of the bomber's family. PHOTO: REUTERS

They will be handed over to their relatives once they have recovered psychologically

The seven-year-old girl whose parents mounted a suicide bomb attack on the Surabaya police headquarters on May 14 is now under the care of Indonesia's Social Affairs Ministry.

She joins six other children, aged between seven and 15, of suspected militants who were killed while in the midst of planning terror attacks in East Java last month.

Social Affairs Minister Idrus Marham said his ministry will help in their rehabilitation, reported Antara state news agency.

Speaking to reporters after receiving the children at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta on Tuesday night, Mr Idrus said there is a need to protect them, and he believes they will adapt well to rehabilitation.

He declined to disclose the centre's location, citing security concerns, but said "they are now in a safe and decent place".

The move to take custody of the children follows a previous initiative by his predecessor, Ms Khofifah Indar Parawansa, who last year introduced a programme focusing on helping former militants and their families reconcile with society.

  • 37

    Suspects arrested in connection with the suicide bombings in Surabaya.

    27

    Lives lost in the attacks, including 13 perpetrators from sleeper cells.

    7

    Youngsters receiving rehabilitation as a result of the attacks.

The seven-year-old girl is the daughter of Tri Murtiono, a militant who took his family along on two motorcycles to the Surabaya police station, where he blew himself up.

His wife and two other children were killed in the explosion, while his daughter miraculously survived despite being flung more than 30m by the blast.

Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini, who visited the children while they were at a local hospital before being handed over to the Social Affairs Ministry, told reporters that they were still recovering from their injuries but cheerful.

Referring to Murtiono's child, she said: "His daughter is cheerful even though her right hand is broken."

The attack on the police station came a day after coordinated suicide bombings by a family of six, including a nine-year-old girl, on three churches in Surabaya on a Sunday morning.

Indonesian police have arrested 37 suspects in connection with the suicide bombings in the country's second-largest city, while four other suspects were shot and killed in a subsequent security dragnet.

The seven youngsters receiving rehabilitation include the children of Anton Febrianto, the head of a family in Sidoarjo, located just outside the Surabaya city centre.

Anton blew himself up on May 13 during a raid by the police, killing his wife and 17-year-old son in the process, but another three children, aged 10 to 15, survived.

The remaining three children in the care of the Social Affairs Ministry are of another suspected militant, Dedy Sulistianto. He was shot and killed by police in Manukan Kulon, Surabaya, on May 15.

The attacks in Surabaya last month claimed 27 lives, including 13 perpetrators who are said to have been in sleeper cells with ties to the Jemaah Ansharut Daulah , a local terrorist group loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Analysts have estimated that as many as 100 children may have been taken along by their parents to Iraq or Syria to join ISIS.

Security agencies, such as the Densus 88 counter-terrorism unit, have also flagged "child terrorism as a looming threat".

Meanwhile, Ms Rismaharini told Tempo news that the children seemed to have been influenced by their parents.

The government's directorate for children's rehabilitation said the youngsters will be given assistance until they recover psychologically before being reunited with their next of kin.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2018, with the headline 'Surviving children of slain Surabaya terrorists in rehab'. Print Edition | Subscribe