Calls for knife attacks preceded Sunday's sword rampage in Yogyakarta church: Counter-terror official

Calls for knife attacks preceded Sunday's sword rampage in Yogyakarta church: Counter-terror official

Yogyakarta sword attack 2
Police investigators examine the interior of St Lidwina Church following an attack in Sleman, Yogyakarta province, Indonesia on Sunday (Feb 11). (Photo: AP)

KUALA LUMPUR: Radical groups were calling for knife attacks in Indonesia just a week before a sword-wielding man stabbed a Catholic priest and three others during mass in a church in Yogyakarta on Sunday (Feb 12), a counter-terrorism source told Channel NewsAsia.

The attacker also slashed the statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary during the violence at the Santa Lidwina church in Yogyakarta, Central Java.

Counter-terrorism officials and the police are now investigating whether the attacker, Suliyono, 23, was inspired by radicals to carry out the attacks as a lonewolf or whether he is part of a terror group.

“From several radical groups we were monitoring, it was found that they (radicals) were broadcasting calls to mujahidins to use knives to carry out attacks just a week ago,” a counter-terrorism official told Channel NewsAsia.

The official did not give details on what platforms the broadcasts were delivered.

Police are also investigating whether the suspect is linked to terror groups from Solo, Central Java, which had earlier planned to carry out attacks during Christmas and New Year’s Day but later postponed them.

Counter-terrorism sources are now predicting an increase in acts of terror in Yogyakarta as there have been a rising number of activities by radical groups in the province.

“In the past few months, there has been several incidents of persecution and rejection of church activities by the Islamic Jihad Front (FJI), among others, in Bantul and Mount Kidul,” the official told Channel NewsAsia. Bantul and Mount Kidul are regencies in Yogyakarta province.

FJI is a hardline group that was launched in 2011 and headquartered in Bantul. The group is implicated in acts of violence against minorities, including Christians and Shias.

On Jan 28, FJI disrupted and shut down a charity event organised by the St Paulus Pringgolayan Catholic church in Bantul.

“Acts of persecution, attacks and terror in the special province of Yogyakarta will increase in line with the rise of activities by radical mass organisations, and also because of the policy of the provincial government, which has not taken firm actions in dealing with these acts of violence and intolerance in the city,” the official said.

On Monday (Feb 12), Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo told reporters that there is no place for intolerance in Indonesia.

“There is no place for those who are intolerant in our country, Indonesia,” President Widodo was quoted as saying by the Kompas daily, adding that the country’s constitution guarantees religious freedom to every citizen.

Source: CNA/ac