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Suspected Suicide Bombing Rocks Catholic Church in Indonesia


An Indonesian policeman stands guard at the site of an explosion outside a church in Makassar on March 28, 2021.

Two suspected suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a Catholic church in Makassar, the provincial capital of South Sulawesi, during a Palm Sunday Mass, wounding at least 19 people.

Argo Yuwono, an Indonesian police spokesperson told reporters that the suicide bombers were intercepted by security at the gate to the church compound and then the bomb exploded.

“We suspect that there are two perpetrators who [were] riding a motorbike” Yuwono said. “Initially, they would enter the courtyard or gate of this Cathedral Church which has just finished Sunday mass.”

Yuwono said that authorities were not able to immediately confirm how many people were killed, and whether the body parts scattered at the site were of the perpetrators or victims. “Everything is still under investigation,” he said.

Indonesian Minister of Religion, Yaqut Cholil Qaumas, strongly condemned the bombing in a video response he sent VOA’s Indonesian Service.

“I urge all religious leaders, whatever the religion is, to reiterate to their followers that no religion justifies terrorism,” Qaumas said. “Religion always teaches us about love, peace, to love one each other. The heinous act that we see today is not a behavior of religious communities.”

He called on people not to be afraid of such terror acts. “Fear will destroy our social cohesion,” Qaumas said.

Stanislaus Riyanta, an expert on terrorism at the University of Indonesia, said in an interview with VOA’s Indonesian Service it was likely that the perpetrators came from Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a radical group affiliated with Islamic State. The Sunday bombing, he said, was carried out in the same way as the one at Surabaya Church in 2018 which left more than 30 dead, and one at Medan Police in 2019.

“Since the law enforcement is very intense in eradicating terror networks in Indonesia, I think this action may occur as a revenge or resistance, as well as a form of reaction due to the increasing pressure on the group by the security apparatus,” Riyanta said.

Noor Huda Ismail, a visiting fellow at the S. Rajaratnam Institute of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University of Singapore said the explosion at the Catholic cathedral in Makassar was not a new trend, but rather “a continuation and disturbing trend in Indonesia.”

“Observing the pattern, by having two perpetrators riding a motorbike and carrying explosives, I think, this is not Jemaah Islamiyah (terrorist group),” Ismail told VOA’s Indonesian Service. “I suspect the perpetrators are the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah group.”

Indonesia has long suffered Islamic militant violence and has seen a series of attacks, including the deadly terror attack in Bali in 2002 which killed more than 200 people.

VOA Indonesian Service’s Eva Mazrieva contributed to this report.