April 19, 2021

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Suspected suicide attack rocks Indonesia church, many wounded

3 min read

At least 14 people wounded after suspected suicide bombers detonate explosives outside a packed church during Palm Sunday Mass.

Two suspected suicide bombers detonated explosives outside a Catholic church in the Indonesian city of Makassar, wounding fourteen people on the first day of the Easter Holy Week, the country’s national police said.

The explosion took place on Sunday at a time the congregation was inside the church on the island of Sulawesi, police said, just as the mass was ending.

Fourteen people were hurt in the blast, national police spokesman Argo Yuwono said.

Local police had previously said the bomber had acted alone and was the only fatality.

Father Wilhemus Tulak, a priest who was leading mass at the time of the explosion, told Indonesian media the church’s security guards suspected two motorists who wanted to enter the church. One of them detonated his explosives and died near the gate after being confronted by guards.

He said the explosion occurred at about 10:30am (03:30 GMT) and that none of the worshippers were killed.

Indonesian police carry a bag with the remains of a suspected suicide bomber after an explosion outside a church in Makassar [Indra Abriyanto/AFP]

Security camera footage showed a blast that blew flame, smoke and debris into the middle of the road.

Makassar Mayor Danny Pomanto said the blast could have caused far more casualties if it had taken place at the church’s main gate instead of a side entrance.

Police did not say who might be responsible for the apparent attack and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Police blamed the ISIL-inspired Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) group for suicide attacks in 2018 on churches and a police post in the city of Surabaya that killed more than 30 people.

Indonesian forensic police examine the site after a suspected bomb exploded near a church in Makassar [Indra Abriyanto/AFP]

Boy Rafli Amar, the head of the country’s National Counterterrorism Agency, described Sunday’s attack as an act of “terrorism”.

Makassar, Sulawesi’s biggest city, reflects the religious makeup of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country with a substantial Christian minority and followers of other religions.

“Whatever the motive is, this act isn’t justified by any religion because it harms not just one person but others, too,” Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, Indonesia’s religious affairs minister, said in a statement.

Gomar Gultom, head of the Indonesian Council of Churches, described the attack as a “cruel incident” as Christians were celebrating Palm Sunday, and urged people to remain calm and trust the authorities.

Indonesia’s deadliest attack took place on the tourist island of Bali in 2002, when bombers killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

In subsequent years, security forces in Indonesia scored some major successes in tackling armed groups but, more recently, there has been a resurgence of violence.

An Indonesian policeman stands guard at the site of the explosion outside the church in Makassar [Indra Abriyanto/AFP]

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