A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a packed Roman Catholic cathedral on Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island during a Palm Sunday Mass, wounding at least 14 people, police said.
A smartphone video obtained by the Associated Press showed body parts scattered near a burning motorbike at the gates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi Province.
The attack came as Indonesia was on high alert following the arrest of Jemmaah Islamiyah leader Aris Sumarsono in December last year.
Photo: Reuters / Antara Foto / Arnas Padda
Wilhelmus Tulak, a Catholic priest who led the Mass when the bomb exploded at about 10:30am, told reporters that a loud bang shocked his congregation, who had just finished the Sunday service marking the beginning of the holy week before Easter.
The first batch of churchgoers was walking out of the church while another group was coming in when the blast happened, he said.
Security guards suspected two motorists who wanted to enter the church, Tulak said, adding that one of them detonated his explosives and died near the gate after being confronted by the guards.
The wounded included four guards and several churchgoers.
Indonesian National Police spokesperson Argo Yuwono told a news conference in the capital, Jakarta, that police were still trying to identify two attackers on a motorbike who used powerful explosives.
He said that police were investigating whether they were linked to a local affiliate of the banned Jemaah Islamiyah network or were acting independently.
About 64 suspects had been detained by the Indonesian Counterterrorism Special Detachment 88 in several provinces, including 19 in February in Makassar.
The arrests followed a tipoff about possible attacks against police and places of worship.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, has been battling militants since bombings on the resort island of Bali in 2002 killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.
Attacks aimed at foreigners have in the past few years been largely replaced by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the Indonesian government, police and anti-terrorism forces, and people militants consider as infidels.
A court banned Jemaah Islamiyah in 2008, and the group was weakened by a sustained crackdown. A new threat has in the past few years emerged, inspired by the Islamic State (IS) group’s attacks abroad.
The country’s last major attack was in May 2018, when two families carried out suicide bombings in the second-largest city of Surabaya, killing a dozen people including two young girls whose parents had involved them in one of the attacks.
Police said that the father was the leader of local IS affiliate Jemaah Anshorut Daulah.
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