Indonesia steps up security at churches for Easter after suicide bombing attack

Indonesian police stand guard as they seal the area after an explosion outside a church in Makassar, Indonesia on March 28, 2021.
Indonesian police stand guard as they seal the area after an explosion outside a church in Makassar, Indonesia on March 28, 2021. | Indra Abriyanto/AFP via Getty Images

The Christian minority in Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, will attend Easter service under heavy security following last week’s suicide bombing outside a church carried out by a married couple affiliated with a homegrown terror network that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

The southeast Asian archipelago’s National Police spokesman, Rusdi Hartono, told media that all police departments have been asked to be prepared for potential terror attacks against churches during Easter celebrations, according to APF, which also reported that services for Good Friday were held under heavy security.

Two days before Good Friday, police shot dead a 25-year-old woman, identified as Zakiah Aini, who pointed a gun at police officers at the National Police headquarters in Jakarta and fired at least six shots, Jakarta Globe reported, adding that Zakiah was a university dropout who supported the IS.

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On Palm Sunday last week, a 26-year-old man, identified as Muh Lukman, and his wife, Yogi Sahfitri Fortuna, a.k.a. Dewi, blew themselves up in front of the gate of the Cathedral Church in the city of Makassar in South Sulawesi province at about 10:30 a.m. as the church was preparing for its third service.

The couple, natives of South Sulawesi, had been married for six months.

Police disclosed that at least 20 people were wounded in the incident, according to The Associated Press.

Three female suspects are in custody on charges of knowing in detail about the bombing plot and motivating the couple to carry out the attack, the Globe reported, which said the couple blew themselves up after being denied entry by a security guard at the church.

The guard, identified as a 52-year-old man named Kosmas, is recovering from burns to his head and abdomen.

“There have been many arrests between January and the [church] bombing. Counterterrorism squad Detachment 88 has arrested at least 94 terror suspects in pre-emptive strikes since January,” National Police spokesman Chief Comr. Ahmad Ramadhan was quoted as saying.

Police have said many of the suspects and the two suicide bombers had been part of a homegrown terror group, Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, or JAD, whose leaders have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

The JAD, Indonesia’s most active terror cell for the last two years, was also behind coordinated attacks on three churches — Immaculate Saint Mary Catholic Church, Indonesia Christian Church and Surabaya Central Pentecost Church — in Surabaya on May 13, 2018, which killed at least 13 people.

 According to the United Nations Security Council, Jamaah Ansharut Daulah "participates in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities" in conjunction with groups like the IS and al-Qaida. 

The group was established in 2015 as an umbrella organization for over two dozen Indonesian extremist groups that pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Indonesia’s Constitution is based on the doctrine of Pancasila — five principles upholding the nation’s belief in the one and only God and social justice, humanity, unity and democracy for all.

However, many extremist groups in Indonesia, including the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, oppose Pancasila.

Indonesia, where Christians form about 10% of the population, is ranked No. 47 on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List of countries where Christians face the greatest levels of persecution.

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