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Christian Services Targeted by Bombers

Christian Services Targeted by Bombers

Pope Francis assured the "dear people of Indonesia", and especially Christians in the city of Surabya, that he was "particularly close" to them in the wake of deadly attacks earlier on Sunday.

At least 13 people, including all six family members, died in the attacks in Surabaya and at least 41 people were injured, police said, in acts that Indonesia's president celled "barbaric".

Explosions, including a suicide bombing, at three churches in Indonesia's second largest city Surabaya on Sunday are the latest in a string of deadly attacks in the world's biggest Muslim-majority country.

At a news conference later on Sunday, Indonesia's police chief, Tito Karnavian, said the family suspected in the attacks had recently returned from Syria: "Five hundred people were deported from Syria; among them is this family".

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

Forensic and bomb squad officers searched the area and streets near the bombed churches were blocked by checkpoints and heavily-armed police, Reuters reported.

The attacks occurred within minutes of each other, according to Surabaya police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera. The two young men - aged 16 and 18 - attacked first, riding their motorcycles into Santa Maria Catholic Church before detonating the bombs they were carrying.

"D then drove the auto containing bombs to the Pentecostal Church and blew it up".

This involved a combination of arrests and targeted killings alongside a deradicalisation programme that focused on altering the mindsets of Indonesians and providing alternative incomes for some released militants.

That was followed by a blast at the Diponegoro Christian Church, where the mother and her two daughters blew themselves up after entering the church grounds clad in niqab face veils and with bombs strapped to their waists.

IS said it was behind the riot, a claim authorities rejected. It is suspected that the Islamic State-inspired suicide bombers were behind this. The group used Indonesians in its videos to threaten governments and police and to urge supporters to carry out further attacks.

Meanwhile, Jakarta police spokesman Setyo Wasisto said police killed four members of JAD in Cianjur, in West Java province, at around 2am yesterday.

It appears that the attacks on three Christian churches were planned in advance. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack.

"These attacks on peaceful worshipers are an affront to the tolerance and diversity embraced by Indonesians".

Back in 2002, 200 people were killed in two bombings carried out by al-Qaeda militants on the island of Bali, a popular spot for tourists. In recent years, the country has faced a new threat as the rise of the Islamic State group in the Middle East invigorated local militant networks. About 87 percent of the population is Muslim, while Christians make up about 10 percent, according to a 2010 estimate from the Central Intelligence Agency.


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