The man who carried out Sunday’s suicide bombing at a church in Indonesia was from an anti-West Islamist terrorist group and more such attacks could follow as his accomplices who have eight bombs remain at large, police said.
The suicide bomber of the Sepenuh Injil Bethel Church (Bethel Full Gospel Church) in Solo City of Central Java province was identified as Pino Damayanto, aka Achmad Yosepa Hayat, a member of the Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid terror group, National Police spokesman Anton Bachrul Alam said Tuesday.
Hayat blew himself up inside the church, wounding 28 people soon after the worship service was over Sunday morning.
The group suspected to be behind the attack, Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (Partisans of the Oneness of God), or JAT, was formed in 2008 by Abu Bakar Bashir, a radical Islamist cleric who is currently serving a 15-year jail term for funding a terrorist training camp. Hayat, the 31-year-old suicide bomber of the church, was “directly indoctrinated” by Bashir, police said.
Bashir is known in the United States as a key member of the Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian Islamist militant group linked to the al-Qaida and known for having killed hundreds of civilians by terror attacks, especially in the 2002 Bali bombings. Bashir alleges that the existence of Jemaah Islamiyah is a myth created by America, and that the Central Intelligence Agency and Israel were responsible for most terror attacks in Indonesia. He also says the 9/11 attacks were part of a covert operation of the CIA to create a pretext to attack Afghanistan and Iraq.
Spokesperson Alam said church bomber Hayat was aided by other members of JAT, who were still at large. “The homemade bomb used in Solo is feared to be one of nine. The rest have not been found yet,” he was quoted as saying. He also said future attacks were possible.
Hayat was a close friend of Muhammad Syarif (also spelled as Sharif), who was responsible for bombing a mosque inside a police station in Cirebon, West Java, in April. Initially, it was suspected that Sharif was the suicide bomber, according to Jakarta Post.
It appears that local police were aware of the possibility of an attack on the church. National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo told the House of Representatives that local police had deputed two policemen to safeguard the church and had installed CCTV, Jakarta Globe reported.
The police chief, however, sought to absolve himself of the failure to protect the church, saying, “Nothing happened during the service; the incident happened at 10:55 a.m. We observed from the CCTV that the bomber came in when the congregation members were about to leave.” He didn’t say what the two police officers were doing at the time of the attack.
Police in Indonesia are seen as highly inefficient, corrupt and over-cautious in dealing with radical groups.
After Sunday’s terror attack, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., posted a message on his Facebook page and Twitter account saying the Bethel Full Gospel Church was “our sister church.”
The reason for the bombing remains unknown but it is suspected that it was an act of revenge for a recent Muslim-Christian clash in Ambon Island that killed eight people, including five Muslims and three Christians. Over 9,000 people, both Christians and Muslims, have been killed in similar clashes in Ambon since 1999.
Police found a similar handmade bomb placed in front of Maranatha Church in Ambon Monday.
Indonesia’s Islamist militants target Christians as they link them to the West, alleging they want to “Christianize” the country through conversions. They also persecute the Ahmadiyyas minority, whom they see as heretic. The Islamists also fight against moderate Muslims and the country’s secular government, which they want to replace with an Islamic state.
Apart from the threat of terror attacks, Christians and other minorities often face violent attacks from other groups that are extremists but not seen by the government as “terrorist” outfits.
The majority of the people in Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, are seen as progressive and moderate. The constitution of Indonesia is based on the principle of Pancasila, which grants religious freedom.