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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid