Mother, Father and Four Children Bomb Three Churches in Indonesia

By Patrick Goodenough | May 14, 2018 | 4:23am EDT
Indonesian police officers near the scene of one of Sunday's church bombings. (Screen capture: YouTube)

( – “Violence and terrorism should not be associated with any religion,” the bloc of Islamic nations declared on Sunday, condemning a series of suicide bombings on Christian churches in Indonesia reportedly carried out by six members of the same family – mother, father, two teenage sons, and daughters aged nine and 12.

At least 11 people were killed and more than 40 wounded in the blasts that targeted three churches in Indonesia’s second-largest city, Surabaya, minutes apart on Sunday morning.

Indonesian police said the father of the family detonated a car bomb in the grounds of a Pentecostal church, while his two sons, ages 16 and 18, carried out a bombing on two motorcycles near the entrance of a Catholic church. His wife and two daughters, whom he had dropped off before heading for his target, bombed a Presbyterian church.

In addition to the 11 victims, all six members of the family were killed in the blasts. Police said the family had recently returned from Syria, via Turkey which had deported them.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) claimed responsibility on a social media channel for the “martyrdom operations.” National police chief Tito Karnavian said police suspect that Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an Indonesian jihadist group that swore allegiance to ISIS in 2015, was behind them.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a bloc of 56 mostly Muslim-majority states, condemned that attacks.

The group’s secretary-general, Yusuf Al-Othaimeen, said the OIC “reaffirms its principled position that violence and terrorism should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization, or ethnic group.”

“Violent extremism and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including violence against civilians and suicide attacks are against the holy principles of Islam and affront to the religious diversity of Indonesian society,” he said.

The State Department also deplored that bombings, with spokeswoman Heather Nauert saying in a tweet that the “attacks on peaceful worshippers are an affront to the tolerance & diversity embraced by Indonesians.”

Hours after the churches were attacked, a fourth blast occurred in the same city, in an apartment block behind a police station. Two people were reported to have been killed, in what police said appeared to be an accidental explosion as bombs were being prepared for attacks elsewhere, also apparently by members of a family.

And early on Monday morning, another suicide bombing took place, near the entrance to the Surabaya police headquarters.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited the scene of the church bombings and urged people to remain calm. He noted the use of children in the “barbaric” attacks.

The world’s most populous Islamic country is often seen a model of moderate Islam, and its official state ideology recognizes not just Islam but also Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

But a rise in religious extremism and an evidently growing culture of intolerance in recent years has seen churches forcibly closed and, last year, the jailing of Jakarta’s Christian governor for “blasphemy.”

Major terror attacks in the early 2000s included two on the resort island of Bali, as well as bombings at a hotel and the Australian Embassy in the capital. Then, the most serious security threat was posed by the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terror network.

More recently, Indonesian police identify JAD as the most dangerous terrorist organization, due to its international and regional connections.

Sunday’s bombings are the deadliest yet in Indonesia linked to the ISIS-affiliated group.

According to the State Department’s most recent country reports on terrorism, covering 2016, at least 800 Indonesians traveled to Iraq and Syria since the beginning of the ISIS conflict, and they included women and children.

Many foreign terrorist fighters are believed to have returned since.

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