News / Asia

Indonesian Police Link Church, Mosque Bombings

A policeman stands guard as residents watch the site of an explosion in front of a church in Solo, Central Java September 25, 2011.
A policeman stands guard as residents watch the site of an explosion in front of a church in Solo, Central Java September 25, 2011.
Kate Lamb

A suicide bomb attack on a church in Central Java, Indonesia, Sunday is raising new concerns over sectarian violence. Following a string of religious hate crimes against Christians and minority groups across the country this year, analysts blame splinter jihadists for Sunday’s attacks.

Witnesses said the suicide bomber mingled among the crowd at Bethel Injil Sepenuh Christian Church in Kepunton, Solo, before detonating the bomb that killed himself and wounded at least 20 others.

National police spokesman Anton Bachrul Alam says DNA results confirming the identity of the bomber will be released Tuesday.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono addressed the violence in a televised address Sunday. He admitted that terrorism in Indonesia remains a very real threat.

The president speculated on the bomber's jihadist links, saying it was likely he was connected to a network in Cirebon, which carried out a similar attack on a mosque this May.

Since last June, more than 10 suspected militants have been captured or killed in police raids in Central Java, which is also home to the Ngruki Islamic boarding school founded by convicted militant Abu Bakar Bashir.

Security analyst Noor Huda Ismail says Solo has long been identified as an active militant recruitment center, but not a place for terrorist attacks. 

"Central Java and specifically Solo is historically a place for jihadists to get new recruits but they never consider this area as a place where they can put into practice radical teachings," he said. "So this is a test that people behind this attack didn't have enough commitment to people in this area because usually they strengthen their cause here in these two areas but put their ideology into practice outside of Java, such as in Ambon, Poso, Jakarta or Bali."

While analysts are reluctant to suggest that extremism is on the rise in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, Sunday's attack, he says, is likely to be the work of splinter jihadists. He says these could include disgruntled members of organizations such as Jeemah Islamiyah and Darual Islam who are disappointed that their leaders are not actively pursuing jihad.

Ismail says the suicide bombing in Solo may have been sparked by sectarian clashes in Ambon, which resulted in the deaths of more than five people on September 11 this year.

"The reason why they attack Christian groups, especially churches, has to do with what is happening now in Ambon, where they believe Muslims are being oppressed in that area. Seven were killed, hundreds of houses being burnt but there was no intervention from the government," he noted. "There are individuals within the network that really really want to do real jihad, action jihad, and what they need is a trigger and Ambon is a clear trigger for this."

Sidney Jones, a terrorism analyst from the International Crisis Group, says it is still premature to link Sunday’s attack to other attacks between Muslims and Christians in recent weeks. But she says there are signs that radical groups are trying to capitalize on the violence.

"I think there might be a possible motivation for targeting a church but we won't know until the investigation is fully underway," said Jones. "There has been a lot of material on radical websites expressing anger toward Crusader Christians and things like this and holding them responsible for the unrest, so it wouldn't surprise if there was a link but we will have to wait and see."

During his nationwide address Sunday, Indonesia’s president called for an intensive investigation into terrorist networks in Solo and also instructed the police to investigate its own personnel. Such quick action from the government is one sign that they worry the violence could spread.

Gregory Fealy is an associate professor at the Australian National University, who specializes in Islamist movements in Indonesia. He says the government is also concerned about how the violence is perceived abroad.

“I think this is a case where the government will react pretty swiftly because it is politically sensitive," said Fealy. "If Christians are being attacked in Indonesia, it often leads to international pressure on Indonesia and the Christian community itself is reasonably well connected politically, although it is numerically small compared to the Muslim community, nonetheless it is regarded as a community that the national government should go to all lengths to protect. They don’t always do that for some of the minority religious groups.”

Members of Indonesia’s minority Muslim sect Ahmadiyah have also suffered attacks in the past year. However that violence has not been met by a firm government response. Human Rights Watch says there were at least 50 acts of violence committed against Ahmadiyah members in the past year. But those convicted in attacks have received relatively light prison sentences.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid