JAKARTA: Two suspected suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a Catholic church in the Indonesian city of Makassar on Sunday morning (Mar 28), the first day of the Easter Holy Week, police and witnesses said.
The two suspects are confirmed dead and about 20 people were injured as of Sunday evening, said Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud MD.
"Maybe there will be more if we find people who report themselves being injured as a result of the explosion," he said in a televised press conference.
The minister said he has ordered the police and military to increase security in places of worship throughout Indonesia.
He also urged people to be patient as authorities work to uncover the network behind the attack.
National police spokesman Inspector General Argo Yuwono said at a press conference in Jakarta that the injured suffered injuries around their necks, chests and legs. Some had blisters on their hands and feet.
The congregation had been inside the church at the time of the explosion, South Sulawesi police spokesman E Zulpan told Reuters.
South Sulawesi police chief Merdisyam told reporters that five church staff members and four worshippers were among the wounded. Due to health restrictions, there were few people in attendance at mass.
Mr Zulpan later told local media the suspects were a man and a woman. Local police previously said the bomber acted alone.
SUSPECTS RODE A MOTORCYCLE
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," said Mr Yuwono.
“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,” he said.
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.
Video 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.
LEADERS CONDEMN TERROR ACT
Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Sunday 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.
"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.
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.
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.
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Indonesia’s deadliest Islamist militant 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 militancy.
Police blamed the Islamic State-inspired Jamaah Ansharut Daulah group for suicide attacks in 2018 on churches and a police post in the city of Surabaya that killed more than 30 people.