Members of a family bombed 3 Indonesian churches, police say

Paramedics treat an Indonesian man injured in a church explosion on May 13, 2018, in Surabaya, East Java.
(Trisnadi / Associated Press)

Coordinated suicide bombings carried out by members of one family struck three churches in Indonesia’s second-largest city on Sunday, police said, as the world’s most populous Muslim nation recoiled in horror at one of its worst attacks since the 2002 Bali bombings.

At least seven people died at the churches in Surabaya along with the six attackers, the youngest of whom were girls ages 9 and 12, according to police. An additional 41 people were injured.

Indonesia’s president condemned the attacks as “barbaric.”

National police chief Tito Karnavian said that the father detonated a car bomb, two sons ages 18 and 16 used a motorcycle for their attack, and the mother and two daughters wore explosives.

Karnavian said the family had returned to Indonesia from Syria, where until recently the militant group Islamic State controlled significant territory.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement carried by Amaq, a news agency affiliated with the militant group. It didn’t mention anything about families or children taking part and said there were only three attackers.


Indonesia’s deadliest terrorist attack occurred in 2002, when bombs exploded on the tourist island of Bali and killed 202 people, mostly foreigners. But the fact that children were involved in Sunday’s attacks in Surabaya shocked and angered the country.

Jemaah Islamiyah, the network responsible for the Bali attacks, was obliterated by a sustained crackdown on militants by Indonesia’s counter-terrorism police, with U.S. and Australian support. But experts on militant networks have warned for several years that the estimated 1,100 Indonesians who traveled to Syria to join Islamic State posed a threat if they returned home.

Karnavian identified the father as Dita Futrianto and said he was head of the Surabaya cell of Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, an Islamic State-affiliated network of about two dozen extremist groups that has been implicated in a number of attacks in Indonesia in the last year. He identified the mother as Puji Kuswati.

The attacks occurred within minutes of one another, according to Surabaya police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera.

Karnavian said that Futrianto drove a bomb-laden car into the city’s Pentecostal church.

Kuswati, with her two daughters, attacked the Christian Church of Diponegoro, the police chief said. Based on their remains, Karnavian said, the three were all wearing explosives around their waists.

The sons rode a motorcycle onto the grounds of the Santa Maria Roman Catholic Church and detonated their explosives there.

A witness said the woman arrived at the Diponegoro church carrying two bags.

“At first officers blocked them in front of the churchyard, but the woman ignored them and forced her way inside. Suddenly she hugged a civilian then [the bomb] exploded,” said the witness, a security guard who identified himself as Antonius.

Shattered glass and chunks of concrete littered the entrance of the Santa Maria church, which was sealed off by armed police. Rescue personnel treated victims at a nearby field while officers inspected wrecked motorcycles in the parking lot.

A street merchant outside the church said she was blown several yards by the blast.

“I saw two men riding a motorbike force their way into the churchyard. One was wearing black pants and one with a backpack,” said the merchant, Samsia, who uses a single name. “Soon after that the explosion happened.”

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who visited the scenes of the attacks, described the bombings as “cowardly actions” that were “very barbaric and beyond the limit of humanity.”

In Jakarta, the nation’s capital, the Indonesian Church Assn. condemned the attacks.

“We are angry,” said Gormar Gultom, an official with the association, but he urged people to let the police investigation take its course.

Indonesia’s two largest Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, also condemned the attacks.

Mangera, the Surabaya police spokesman, said police responded about 9 p.m. to an explosion in a residential building in Sidoarjo, a neighboring district.

He confirmed televised reports that three people, including a child, were inside the fifth-floor flat at the time of the blast. A bomb squad was checking the building, he said, and hundreds of people were evacuated from the neighborhood.

Separately, national police spokesman Setyo Wasisto said police fatally shot four suspected militants and arrested two others early Sunday in West Java towns. It wasn’t clear whether the shootings were connected to the church attacks.

“They have trained in order to attack police,” Wasisto said, identifying the militants as members of Jemaah Ansharut Daulah.

Jakarta police placed the capital and surrounding areas on high alert, while the Transportation Ministry warned airports to be on guard.

The church attacks came days after police ended a hostage-taking ordeal by imprisoned Islamic militants at a detention center near Jakarta in which six officers and three inmates died. Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Despite Indonesia’s crackdown on militants since the Bali bombings, the country has faced a new threat in recent years as the rise of Islamic State in the Middle East invigorated local militant networks.

Christians, many of whom are from the ethnic Chinese minority, make up about 9% of Indonesia’s 260 million people.


4:55 p.m.: This article was updated with Islamic State claiming responsibility for the attack, two of the suspects’ identities and details on the timeline.

5:50 a.m.: Updated to clarify that the 13 dead included the six bombers.

4:40 a.m.: Updated to raise the death toll to 13.

3:50 a.m.: Updated to raise the death toll to 11 and state that the bombers were members of one family.

This article was first published at 11:55 p.m. Saturday.