Two suspected suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a Catholic church in the Indonesian city of Makassar on Sunday, March 28, wounding about 20 people on the first day of the Easter Holy Week.
National police spokesman Inspector General Argo Yuwono said at a press conference in Jakarta that the worshippers suffered from wounds around their necks, chests and legs. Some had blisters on their hands and feet.
The explosion occurred when the congregation had been inside the church on the island of Sulawesi, South Sulawesi police spokesman E Zulpan told Reuters.
The two suspected suicide bombers are confirmed dead, said Coodinating Minister for Polical, Legal and Security Affairs, Mahfud MD.
The minister said he has ordered the police and military to increase security in places of worship throughout Indonesia.
South Sulawesi police chief Merdisyam said that five church staff members and four worshippers are among the wounded. Due to health restrictions, there were few people in attendance at mass.
The two suspected bombers had arrived at the church around 10.20am on a motorcycle, said Mr Yuwono. They tried to enter the cathedral but a security officer stopped them.
“Then the explosion happened. Based on information on the ground, the vehicle is destroyed, there are several human remains, and of course this will be part of our investigation.” said Yuwono.
Father Wilhemus Tulak, a priest at the church, told Indonesian media that a person who was holding off a suspected suicide bomber was wounded.
Security camera footage showed a blast that blew flame, smoke and debris into the middle of the road. Photos from the scene showed police had set up a cordon around the church and cars parked nearby were damaged.
Police did not say who might be responsible for the attack and there was no immediate claim of responsibility. Police are investigating whether the suspects belong to a network, said Mr Yuwono.
Meanwhile, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has condemned the attack, and called on the public to remain calm.
“I strongly condemn the act of terrorism and I have ordered the police chief to thoroughly investigate the perpetrators’ networks and expose the network to its roots,” said the president, known popularly as Jokowi, in an online live broadcast,” he stated.
“Terrorism is a crime against humanity and has nothing to do with any religion. All religious teachings reject terrorism. The entire state apparatus will not tolerate this kind of terrorism, and I ask the public to remain calm and carry out worship because the state guarantees the security of religious people to worship without fear,” he added.
Jokowi also asked the public to work together to fight terrorism and radicalism.
“For the victims who were injured, we pray that they are given a speedy recovery and the state guarantees all medical expenses and care for the victims,” said Jokowi.
Boy Rafli Amar, the head of the country’s National Counterterrorism Agency, described Sunday’s attack as an act of terrorism.
Makassar Mayor Danny Pomanto said Sunday’s blast could have caused far more casualties if it had taken place at the church’s main gate instead of a side entrance.
“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.