Two suicide bombers believed to be members of a militant network loyal to the Islamic State blew themselves up in front of a church full of Palm Sunday Mass parishioners in Indonesia.
At least 20 church parishioners and guards were injured Sunday morning in the explosion outside the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar on the island of Sulawesi.
The Roman Catholic congregation had just finished celebrating Palm Sunday Mass when they were startled by a loud bang outside in the street.
Church priest Reverend Wilhelmus Tulak said the explosion went off when a first batch of parishioners walked out of the church and another group entered.
He said church guards became suspicious of two men on motorcycles who wanted to enter the building and when they went to confront them, one of the men detonated his explosives.
Police later said that both attackers were killed instantly and evidence collected on the spot indicated that one of them was a woman.
Two suicide bombers were killed after blowing themselves up in front of a Roman Catholic church on Sunday. Depicted are police officers and rescue workers carrying a body bag from the blast site in South Sulawesi, Indonesia
The two attackers are said to have been members of the militant group Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and was responsible for deadly suicide bombings on Indonesian churches in 2018, National Police Chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo told reporters. .
He said one of the attackers would be linked to a church bombing in the Philippines.
The attack a week before Easter in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation came as the country was on high alert following the December arrest of the leader of the Southeast Asian militant group, Jemaah Islamiah, who has been designated by many countries as a terrorist group.
Indonesia has been fighting militants since bombing raids on the holiday island of Bali in 2002 claimed 202 lives, including 88 Australians.
Police have identified one of Sunday’s attackers only by his initial, L, which they say was linked to a 2019 suicide bombing that killed 23 people in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Carmel in the Philippine province. Sulu, Prabowo said.
He said the two attackers were linked to a group of suspected militants who were arrested in Makassar on January 6, when a police anti-terrorist squad shot two suspected militants and arrested 19 others.
The street outside the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Makassar was closed for the rest of Sunday as forensic police investigated the scene and cleared the scattered debris
The explosion went off when a first batch of parishioners walked out of the church and another group entered. Depicted is the deposited scene afterwards
“We are still looking for other members of the group and I have ordered the Densus 88 to prosecute their movement,” Prabowo said, referring to Indonesia’s elite counter-terrorism police.
The last major attack in Indonesia was in May 2018, when two families carried out a series of suicide bombings on churches in Surabaya city that killed a dozen people, including two young girls whose parents had implicated them in one of the attacks. Police said the father was the leader of a local branch of Jemaah Anshorut Daulah.
President Joko Widodo condemned Sunday’s attack in a televised address to the nation.
“I urge people to stay calm during the worship because the state guarantees that you can worship without fear,” Widodo said.
He offered his prayers to the injured and said the government would cover all medical costs.
He said he had instructed the head of the national police to work hard against any militant network that might be involved.
At least 20 people were injured in the blast outside a Catholic church in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia on Sunday morning.
Police officers closely monitored near a church where an explosion went off in Makassar, injuring more than 20 parishioners and church guards
The explosion has been condemned by Church leaders around the world.
At the end of the Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, which opened the Holy Week ceremonies in the Vatican, Pope Francis invited prayers to the victims of violence.
He specifically mentioned “that of the attack that took place this morning in Indonesia, in front of Makassar Cathedral.” ‘
A video of the site of the attack, obtained by The Associated Press, showed body parts scattered near a burning engine at the gates of the church.
At least 20 people were injured in the attack and admitted to hospitals for treatment, said Mohammad Mahfud, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.
Indonesia has been on high alert since police arrested Jemaah Islamiyah leader Aris Sumarsono, also known as Zulkarnaen, in December. In the past month, the country’s counter-terrorism personnel arrested about 64 suspects, including 19 in Makassar, after a tip about possible attacks on police and places of worship.
Jemaah Islamiyah was once considered the foremost terror network in Southeast Asia, but has been weakened in recent years by persistent repression.
Police remained on the scene hours later when the Indonesian president and church leaders worldwide condemned the attack