Indonesia police to step up security at churches ahead of Easter weekend following terror attacks

Indonesia police to step up security at churches ahead of Easter weekend following terror attacks

An internal probe is underway on how an alleged attacker was able to sneak a gun into the police headquarters on Wednesday, before being fatally shot.

Indonesia Explosion
Police officers stand guard near a church where an explosion went off in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, Sunday, March 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Yusuf Wahil)

JAKARTA: Indonesian police said on Thursday (Apr 1) that they will be stepping up security at churches across the country ahead of the Easter weekend, after two recent terror attacks.  

National Police spokesman Rusdi Hartono told reporters: "In light of recent security conditions, (particularly) the incident in Makassar, the National Police has instructed police in all regions to step up their vigilance towards acts of terrorism, particularly in their operations to secure Easter celebrations."

A Catholic church in the city of Makassar, South Sulawesi province was the scene of a suicide bombing attack last Sunday, when a married couple riding on a motorcycle blew themselves up. Twenty people were injured in the blast, four of whom are still hospitalised.

On Wednesday, a 25-year-old woman engaged in a shootout with the police inside the National Police headquarters in Jakarta. She fired six shots at police officers before being fatally gunned down. No police officers were injured in the incident.

Indonesia Explosion
A police officer stands guard near a church where an explosion went off in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, Sunday, March 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Yusuf Wahil)

Mr Hartono said police will comb churches to look for bombs and other suspicious items before masses. “Police will also be deployed to guard church entrances and doors and check people’s belongings,” he said.

The police announcement came hours after President Joko Widodo condemned the two acts of terrorism.

“I have instructed national police chief, military chief and state intelligence agency chief to increase vigilance,” he said on Thursday. “There is no place for terrorism in our motherland.”

SECURITY PROCEDURES UNDER REVIEW

Mr Hartono said police are reviewing their own security procedures after the Jakarta incident.

The suspect, Ms Zaikah Aini, has been described as “a lone wolf” who believed in Islamic State ideology. She is believed to have entered the police compound through a pedestrian gate, claiming that she was delivering documents.

Indonesian authorities shot a person who entered the national police headquarters in Jakarta, in an
Indonesian authorities shot a person who entered the national police headquarters in Jakarta, in an incident described by local media as an "alleged terror attack" AFP/Mariana

Mr Hartono said an internal investigation is underway to see if officers manning the gate had searched her belongings and body.

“Fact of the matter is, she was able to sneak a gun into the police headquarters. We are auditing our security procedures. If there are flaws, we will make improvements. And not just the National Police headquarters but (the audit) will be applied to police stations (nationwide),” he said.

Although several police outposts and regional offices have been the target of terror attacks, this was the first time the national headquarters was hit. 

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Police are also investigating how the attacker had acquired the pistol used in the attack.

Local media reported that she may have been carrying an airsoft gun that shoots plastic pellets.

Mr Hartono said from the suspect’s body, police discovered a membership card issued by a now-defunct shooting range. “It is possible that is how she acquired the gun,” he said.    

“We are still investigating. It is difficult because the suspect is already dead,” he said.

Mr Hartono defended officers’ decision to fatally shoot the woman.

“Police officers have been instructed to take firm actions whenever they are assaulted and the suspect appeared to be armed, particularly when the suspect is breaching a high-security compound like the National Police headquarters,” he said.

READ: Terror cells in Indonesia continue to recruit and plot attacks amid COVID-19, says senior counterterrorism official  

Possession of firearms and airsoft guns are heavily regulated in Indonesia. Guns must be registered by security officials and owners must obtain a license and be a member of the Indonesian Hunting and Shooting Association (Perbakin).

Perbakin chairman, Lieutenant General Joni Supriyanto said in a statement that Ms Aini was not a licensed member although she had attended shooting lessons at a now-defunct shooting range.   

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Police said prior to the attack she posted an image of the IS flag on her Instagram account, adding that the authorities have also found a will at her home. She had also messaged her family to say goodbye over WhatsApp. 

Neighbours described the college dropout as a quiet woman who rarely left her house. “She was very different from her parents who are very friendly and sociable,” a neighbour was quoted as saying by Detik news portal. 

She was reportedly buried in a private funeral on Thursday.

Source: CNA/ni

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