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Indonesia blast: At least 11 dead as suicide bombers attack three churches

Agencies/ 13 May 18 | 03:01 PM

Police seen outside the Immaculate Santa Maria Catholic Church following a blast, in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia. Photo: Reuters

Suicide bombers on motorcycles and including a woman with children targeted today Mass congregations in three churches in Indonesia's second largest city, killing at least 11 people and wounding dozens in one of the worst attacks on the Christian minority, police said.

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The first attack struck the Santa Maria Roman Catholic Church in Surabaya, killing four people, including one or more bombers, police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera told reporters at the scene. He said two police officers were among a total of 41 wounded.


The blast was followed by a second explosion minutes later at the Christian Church of Diponegoro and a third at the city's Pantekosta Church, Mangera said.


President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo arrived in Surabaya, the East Java provincial capital, in the aftermath of the attacks, Mangera said. The bombings were the worst since a series of attacks on churches on Christmas Eve in 2000 killed 15 people and wounded nearly 100. Religious minorities, especially Christians, have been repeatedly targeted by militants.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country and has seen a recent resurgence in homegrown militancy.

Police told media the attacks were carried out by “suicide bombers" and warned the toll could rise further.

East Java police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera said explosions took place in three churches and 40 people had been taken to the hospital.

“There is one location where we can’t enter yet," Mangera told reporters near the scene of one of the bombings.

fficers walk past debris at Santa Maria church where an explosion went off in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia. Photo: AP/PTI

The official death toll climbed from an initial two killed and may include those who succumbed to injuries in hospital.

Three separate locations were hit by the bombings around 7:30 am (0030 GMT).

Images from one scene showed a body lying outside the gate of Santa Maria catholic church and members of Indonesia's bomb squad poring over the rubble.

At least one of the attackers was killed when they detonated their bomb at Santa Maria. It was not clear if any other perpetrators were among those killed or injured.

Debris are seen outside Santa Maria church where an explosion went off in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia. Photo: AP/PTI

"I was frightened... many people were screaming," 23-year-old witness Roman told AFP after the blast at Santa Maria church.

The attacks come several days after five Indonesian police officers and an inmate were killed in clashes at a high-security jail on the outskirts of Jakarta.

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for that incident although police rejected its involvement.

Television footage showed one church engulfed in fire, with thick, black smoke billowing up.

Media reports said a woman with a younger child and a teenager had just entered one church and was being questioned by security when the bomb exploded.

Television images showed toppled motorcycles and debris scattered around the entrance of one church and police cordoning off areas as crowds gathered.

Authorities were also investigating whether there was an explosion at a fourth church.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.

The bombings come days after Islamist militant prisoners killed five members of an elite counter-terrorism force during a 36-hour standoff at a high-security jail on the outskirts of the capital, Jakarta.

Indonesia has had some major successes tackling militancy inspired by al Qaeda’s attacks on the United States in 2001. But there has been a resurgence of Islamist activity in recent years, some of it linked to the rise of Islamic State.

The most serious incident was in January 2016 when four suicide bombers and gunmen attacked a shopping area in central Jakarta.

Churches have also been targeted previously, including near-simultaneous attacks on churches there at Christmas in 2000 that killed about 20 people.

Police ordered the temporary closure of all churches in Surabaya on Sunday, and a large food festival in the city was cancelled.

With inputs from agencies

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