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Suicide Bombers in Deadly Attacks on 3 Churches in Indonesia

BANDUNG, Indonesia — At least 11 people were killed on Sunday morning after suicide bombers detonated explosions at three churches in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, as worshipers gathered between services, the police said.

More than 41 other people were injured by the attackers, at least one of whom was disguised as a churchgoer, said Frans Barung Mangera, a police spokesman. He said the number of casualties could increase as the police were still investigating the blasts.

Mr. Mangera said the bombs had been detonated in different parts of the city within minutes of one another, suggesting the attacks had been coordinated. He said the victims included many worshipers who were entering and leaving the churches between services. Two police officers were among the victims, he said.

A video posted on YouTube showed what appeared to be an attacker on a scooter suddenly turning off a street and speeding toward a church before exploding.

Kumparan News, an online news site, quoted the deputy police chief of Surabaya as saying that another attacker appeared to be a woman who took two children along with her when she targeted what the Indonesia Christian Church. The deputy police chief said she tried to force her way into the church after being stopped by a security guard, according to the website.

The woman then detonated the bomb in the yard outside the entrance, killing herself and the two children, the deputy police chief said.

Photographs from another target, the Santa Maria Church, showed several people lying on the ground outside the church gate. Other images showed scattered debris and the police cordoning off the site.

The other attack took place at Surabaya Center Pentecostal Church, but officials did not immediately release further information. It was not immediately clear if the total death toll included the attackers and the children.

So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which came as self-proclaimed followers of the Islamic State have begun to make their presence felt in Indonesia, a Muslim-majority nation that is proud of its diversity and tolerance.

Surabaya, located on the eastern side of the island of Java, has a significant Christian minority that is about 11 percent of the city’s population of almost three million.

This month, inmates who said they were followers of the Islamic State rioted in a high-security detention center outside of Jakarta, the capital. Five guards were killed before counterterrorism officers stormed the compound.

In 2016, the Islamic State claimed its first attack in Southeast Asia, when militants attacked a police post and shopping center in downtown Jakarta with homemade guns and bombs.

Churches have also been targeted by other extremists. On Christmas Eve in 2000, nearly simultaneous attacks on churches in Jakarta and several other cities killed about 20 people. A local group with links to Al Qaeda later claimed credit.

Ansyaad Mbai, a former leader of Indonesia’s counterterror agency, said he believed that the tight coordination of Sunday’s attacks suggested that they were the work of a single group, which might have sleepers cells in Indonesia.

“This is a series of planned attacks that are aimed at delegitimizing the government,” he said. He suggested that the attacks might have been the work of local extremist groups like the Jamaah Anshar Daulah, which have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Source: NYT > World

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