The North Sumatra Police’s bomb squad on Saturday secured an alleged homemade bomb, that contained 500 grams of nails, which was found in the backyard of Salaon Toba Catholic Church in Samosir Island, located at the center of the renowned Lake Toba.
The church’s priest, Herman Nainggolan, said the package was found following a text message received by local district head Ronggur Ni Huta at 11:11 p.m. local time on Friday that read, “There is a bomb in your jurisdiction at the Salaon Church.”
The text message was promptly reported to the police, which sent a team to inspect the church.
“No one had the courage to move it. It [the bomb] was secured only after the bomb squad arrived today,” Nainggolan said on Saturday.
The suspicious package, which was packed in two drinking bottles, stirred panic among the congregation taking part in Christmas mass.
The team arrived at the church at about 11:30 a.m. and brought the package to the Samosir Police headquarters for further examination.
Samosir Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Donny Damanik said the package had been examined and it was not a bomb. It did not contain explosive material, but it was equipped with batteries connected to the nails with cables.
“The bottle that contained batteries, cables and nails did not explode because it did not contain explosives or have a detonator,” Damanik said
Donny said the police were still investigating the perpetrators of the terror act as well as the motives behind the security threat. He added that the threat was unexpected as Samosir had been secure during the Christmas holiday.
“This is the first [threat] of the year. We will investigate it thoroughly,” he said, adding that security measures would be tightened at all the churches in Samosir following the bomb threat. Samosir is home to some 100 churches, but only 60 are still used for religious activities.
He also said the police and the Samosir administration had agreed to distribute circulars to church boards asking them to call on their respective congregations to not feel threatened.
Nainggolan said some members of his congregation had indeed expressed worry over visiting the church in the aftermath of the threat.
In the past few years, a number of cities in the country have seen bomb threats addressed to worship places.
On Sept. 25, 2011, 22 people were injured when a suicide bomber detonated explosives inside Sepenuh Injil Bethel Church (GBIS) in Surakarta, Central Java.