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Jakarta Post

Surabaya church bombings might be linked to Islamic State: Experts

  • Safrin La Batu

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sun, May 13, 2018   /   04:27 pm
Surabaya church bombings might be linked to Islamic State: Experts Police stand guard outside a church in Banda Aceh on Sunday, following a strong of suicide bomb attacks on churches in Surabaya, East Java, on the same day that killed at least 11 people and wounded dozens of others. (AFP/Chaideer Mahyuddin)

No group has claimed responsibility so far for suicide bombings at three churches in Surabaya, East Java, on Sunday morning. However, some experts have linked the attacks to local cells affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) network.

“This attack may be ISIS-inspired, but that doesn’t mean it is ISIS-directed,” Sidney Jones, a terrorism expert with the Institute for Policy and Analysis of Conflict, told The Jakarta Post, referring to the IS by another acronym.

At least 11 people were reportedly killed while dozens of others were wounded when bombs went off at around 7 a.m. at Saint Mary Immaculate (STMB) Catholic Church of Surabaya on Jl. Ngegel Madya in Gubeng, Surabaya Pentecostal Church (GPPS) on Jl. Raya Arjuna and Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) on Jl. Diponegoro.

"This is likely to be the work of ISIS supporters,” Jones said.

Jones argued that unlike what happened in the past bombings in Indonesia, the Surabaya bombings were not linked to Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), the regional network associated with the global terrorist network of Al Qaeda.

“Many ISIS groups have discussed bomb attacks on churches, but most have failed,” she added.

Several terrorist attacks on churches in the past were carried out by JI members, who are known for their high capability in making bombs. JI has been connected to a string of bomb attacks in Indonesia since 2000, including the Christmas Eve bombings in Jakarta in 2000, the Bali bombings of 2002, the JW Marriott hotel bombing of 2003 and the Australian Embassy bombing of 2004.

Meanwhile, University of Indonesia terrorism expert Ridwan Habib shared Jones's view, saying the attacks may have been launched by the wives of terrorists currently in police detention.

A group of terrorist inmates was behind the recent deadly riot at the detention center of the National Police’s Mobile Brigade headquarters in Depok, West Java. They executed five police officers after seizing police guns. Reports said they were affiliated with the IS, since IS news outlet Amaq News Agency broadcasted the incident soon after the riot broke out. The IS also claimed responsibility for the riot.

“The IS group in Indonesia also has the capability to make bombs,” Ridwan said.

According to Ridwan, the IS has some affiliate groups in Indonesia. The most prominent group is Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), whose former leader, Bahrun Naim, is reportedly an IT expert and has the capability to rig bombs. Bahrun was monitored by terrorism experts giving lectures to his followers on how to build bombs. Bahrun reportedly flew to Syria to fight with the IS. Unconfirmed reports suggested he was killed in Syria.

Ridwan said that, even though the IS and JI shared many views, they disagreed over who should become the target of their attacks. JI would only launch attacks against non-Muslims and foreign officials, since assaults on fellow Muslims are strictly forbidden or haram. Meanwhile, the IS has included government officials, particularly police officers, as legitimate targets, since they consider as enemies Muslims that do not adhere to their beliefs. (dmr)