A suicide bomber attacked an Indonesian church packed with hundreds of worshippers yesterday, killing himself and wounding at least 20 other people, police and hospital officials said. However, there are conflicting reports on the number of dead.
The blast in Solo Town in Central Java Province occurred just as people were filing out at the end of the service.
“Everyone was screaming,” a witness told Metro TV. “I saw fiery sparks and, near the entrance, a man dead on the ground, his entrails spilling out. People around him were splattered with blood,” said Fani, who goes by only one name, like many Indonesians.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the bombing.
“I can confirm that there was a suicide bomb attack in Church Bethel Injil at 10:55am,” Central Java provincial police spokesman Djihartono said.
The church is in Solo, the home town of militant Islamist spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir who was jailed in June for 15 years for funding a terrorist group that was planning attacks against Westerners and political leaders.
Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto said two people were killed, but refused to clarify whether one of them was the bomber.
“One died instantly at the site, the other died in a hospital,” he said, adding that several other people were wounded.
A reporter saw the apparent bomber’s body on the ground at the church’s main entrance, wearing a white shirt and black trousers, and with his left hand severed.
The minister said Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono strongly condemned “the act of terrorism.”
“Nothing can justify this inhuman act,” he told ElShinta radio earlier. “It is the task of everybody to overcome this act of terrorism.”
One witness told ElShinta that four people were killed in the blast, which occurred after mass, as people were leaving the church, but police were unable to confirm that.
“This is clearly a suicide bombing,” police spokesman Colonel Djihartono said, adding that the explosives appeared to have been strapped to the bomber’s stomach.
It was packed with nails, nuts and bolts, found scattered around his body.
About 20 other people were wounded, one critically, said Bambang Sumarsono, a hospital official.
Witnesses said they believed the perpetrator was not a church member.
“He walked about 4m behind me,” Abraham, who attended the service, told El Shinta radio. “I believe he was disguised as a churchgoer.”
Indonesia is a secular Muslim nation with a long history of religious tolerance, but a small extremist fringe has become more vocal — and violent — in recent years.
The Indonesian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but rights groups say violence against minorities including Christians and the Ahmadiyah Islamic sect has escalated recently.
Yudhoyono, who relies heavily on Islamic parties in parliament, has been criticized for remaining silent as minorities have been attacked by hardliners or seen their houses of worship torched or boarded up.
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