Indonesian suicide bombing rocks Makassar Cathedral on Palm Sunday

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Indonesian police carry remains
Indonesian police carry a bag with the remains of a suspected suicide bomber after an explosion outside a church in Makassar Image: Indra Abriyanto

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

A bomb believed to have been detonated by two suicide attackers in Indonesia exploded outside a Catholic cathedral in Makassar, South Sulawesi, on Sunday morning, wounding at least 20 and killing the assailants.

According to the National Police, the bombers arrived at the cathedral on a motorbike, reports Gisela Swaragita in The Jakarta Post.

A church security guard was trying to prevent the vehicle from entering the church’s grounds when the bomb exploded.

“There were two people riding on a motorbike when the explosion happened at the main gate of the church. The perpetrators were trying to enter the compound,” National Police spokesman Brigadier General Argo Yuwono said.

The blast occurred just after the congregants finished a service for Palm Sunday, which is the first day of Holy Week leading up to Easter and commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.

“I strongly condemn this act of terrorism and I have ordered the police chief to thoroughly investigate the perpetrators’ networks and tear down the networks to their roots,” President Joko Widodo said in an online broadcast following the attack, reports Al Jazeera.

Father Wilhelmus Tulak, a priest who was leading mass at the time of the explosion, told Indonesian media the church’s security guards suspected two motorists who wanted to enter the church.

Confronted by guards
One of them detonated their explosives and died near the gate after being confronted by guards.

He said the explosion occurred at about 10:30am (03:30 GMT) and that none of the worshippers was killed.

Security camera footage showed a blast that blew flame, smoke and debris into the middle of the road.

Makassar Mayor Danny Pomanto said the blast could have caused far more casualties if it had taken place at the church’s main gate instead of a side entrance.

Police have previously blamed the JAD group for suicide attacks in 2018 on churches and a police post in the city of Surabaya that killed more than 30 people.

Boy Rafli Amar, the head of the country’s National Counterterrorism Agency, described Sunday’s attack as an act of “terrorism”.

Religious makeup
Makassar, Sulawesi’s biggest city, reflects the religious makeup of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country with a substantial Christian minority and followers of other religions.

“Whatever the motive is, this act isn’t justified by any religion because it harms not just one person but others, too,” Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister, said in a statement.

Gomar Gultom, head of the Indonesian Council of Churches, described the attack as a “cruel incident” as Christians were celebrating Palm Sunday, and urged people to remain calm and trust the authorities.

Indonesia’s deadliest attack took place on the tourist island of Bali in 2002, when bombers killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

In subsequent years, security forces in Indonesia scored some major successes in tackling armed groups but, more recently, there has been a resurgence of violence.

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