Nineteen injured in suicide bomb attack on Indonesian church

29 March 2021

Nineteen people were injured when two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a church on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Sunday 28 March, as the congregation celebrated Palm Sunday.

Five church staff members and four worshippers were among those wounded in the attack in the city of Makassar. The two bombers, a man and a woman, arrived at a side entrance of the church on a motorcycle at around 10.20 a.m. but were stopped from entering by a security guard. Both bombers died at the scene.

The scene of Indonesia attack
The scene at the side entrance to the church after suicide bombers riding a motorcycle detonated their explosives as Christians inside celebrated Palm Sunday

The following day, Indonesian police arrested 13 people and seized powerful explosives after series of raids in Makassar, Greater Jakarta and West Nusa Tenggara province.

Police said the bombers were a married couple who belonged to Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a  group with links to the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) terrorist group. JAD is suspected of carrying out suicide attacks on three churches in the city of Surabaya, on the Indonesian island of Java, in 2018, killing 13 people and wounding 40 others.

Picture of Indonesian President
“Terrorism is a crime against humanity,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo told his people in an online live broadcast hours after the attack on the church in Makassar

Indonesian President Joko Widodo condemned the latest attack as his government ordered security to be tightened at places of worship throughout the country. “Terrorism is a crime against humanity and has nothing to do with any religion,” the president said in an online live broadcast on Sunday. “All religious teachings reject terrorism.”

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

Easter, Christmas and other periods of Christian celebration are a heightened time of risk for Islamic extremist attacks, and authorities in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, have previously ordered security to be tightened on the archipelago, where Christians make up at least 15% of the population. 

On Christmas Eve 2000, 19 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a wave of coordinated attacks on church services in Jakarta, Bekasi, Medan, Sukabumi, Mojokerto, Bandung, Batam Island and Lombok.

Islamist militants were also responsible for the killing of four Christians in a brutal attack in November 2020 on a church in a remote Christian community and Salvation Army post on Sulawesi.

The Republic of Indonesia has no official religion, but is the world’s largest Muslim-majority state. The country has seen a rise in hard-line Islamic ideology in recent years. A generation ago, Muslims and Christians lived peaceably as equals in accordance with the state-promoted philosophy of Pancasila.

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