Surabaya bombings: ISIS family attacks churches, bomb explodes outside police station

Source: Globe Gazette

 

UPDATE: Suicide bombers have launched yet another attack on Indonesia’s second-largest city of Surabaya, this time outside police headquarters around 8.50am (11.50am AEST) this morning.

CCTV footage shows four men on two motorcycles drive up to a security gate outside the compound before seconds later a blast is detonated and security guards are sent flying.

The latest attack comes after a day of carnage on Sunday in which a family of six, including two young girls aged just nine and 12, launched near-simultaneous attacks on three churches across Surabaya as churchgoers attended morning sermons.

At least 14 people have so far died in the attacks including all six of the perpetrators who police say had travelled to northern Syria to join the ISIS caliphate there but had eventually crossed over the border into Turkey where they were arrested and deported back to Indonesia.

At least two other children are confirmed to have been killed – brothers Vincencius and Nathaniel, aged 11 and 8. At least 41 more were injured.

It is understood the family of suicide bombers responsible for Sunday morning’s attacks did not participate in any of the rehabilitation programs offered by the Indonesian government to returnees from the Middle East.

Police are also investigating whether a blast around 9.30pm last night at a low-cost apartment building on Surabaya’s outskirts – in which the bombmaker, his wife and eldest child were killed – is related to the other attacks.

East Java police spokesman Frans Barung Magera has confirmed to The Australian that this morning’s bomb blast occured in the carpark of the Surabaya police headquarters.

“Our team is going there now to assess the damage. I cannot confirm if anyone is killed or injured,” he said.

Asked if the blast was yet another terror attack he said; “The incident has just happened. Please be patient.”

Church attacks

Among the victims identified from yesterday’s church blasts – one of the worst ever attacks on Indonesia’s minority Christian community – were two young brothers Vincencius and Nathaniel, aged 11 and 8.

The two boys were attending early mass with their family at Surabaya’s Santa Maria Catholic Church when another two young brothers, aged 16 and 18, detonated a powerful suicide bomb in the car park around 7.10am.

At least six children died in yesterday’s attacks. Also believed to be among the dead were nine-year-old Pamela Rizkita and her 12-year-old sister Fadillah Sari. Their father, Dita Upriarto, strapped suicide belts to both their waists before dropping them off with their mother, Puji Kuswati, outside the Indonesian Christian Church on Sunday morning.

Witnesses said the blast happened after the two girls and their mother – all wearing long black hijabs – were stopped by security guards as they tried to enter the church around 7.30am Sunday. The woman and the older girl were both carrying backpacks.

Dita Upriarto then made his way to the Arjuna Pentecostal Church where he detonated the third bomb inside a Toyota Avanza outside the building. Amateur footage taken outside the scene of a third attack, at the Arjuna Pentecostal Church, showed thick clouds of black smoke and flames billowing out of the building.

Indonesian police chief Tito Karnavian said the family of six, who launched near-simultaneous attacks on three Surabaya churches, were tied to Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, an umbrella organization of Indonesian militant groups proscribed by the US State Department, and Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid. The groups are the main supporters of ISIS in Indonesia, he said.

“The family had also tried to join ISIS in the Middle East, returned, were arrested by Turkish authorities and deported. The father eventually became the head of the JAD Surabaya cell.”

Dita Upriarto was believed to be the head of the JAD cell in Surabaya. The family lived in an upper-middle-class neighbourhood in Surabaya and is believed to have made their money through a coconut oil business.

According to Puji Kuswati’s Facebook page, inactive since 2012, she graduated from nursing school.

All six family members, including the two sons Yusif Fadil and Firman Halim, are believed to have died in the attacks.

President Joko Widodo, who rushed to the city yesterday, described the attacks as “truly savage and beyond tolerable” and said he had “no words to express the sorrow we feel for the loss of lives”.

“This is a crime against humanity and has nothing to do with religion. We must unite to fight against terrorism.”

Malcolm Turnbull also condemned the “cowardly terrorist attacks” in a statement that said the Australian government “stands in solidarity with the government of Indonesia”.

About 500 Indonesians – aspiring jihadists but also conservative Muslim families with children – have returned from the Middle East in recent years after trying to join the now-fallen Islamic State caliphate in northern Syria.

Another 500 Indonesians are still in Syria, and 103 are believed to have died there, General Tito said.

“These returnees still have the same mindset and it is a challenge for us.”

Terror analysts have long-warned Indonesia needs to do more to contain that threat, though authorities argue they are hampered by weak anti-terror laws and the reluctance of politicians to grant greater powers to security agencies.

“It is the classic nightmare scenario which had been much anticipated,” Southeast Asia security expert at Deakin University Greg Barton said last night.

“The fact we haven’t seen it before now shows there has been a lot of success in dealing with returnees. Until we get a proper assessment of what went wrong we won’t know whether this was a case of missed opportunity or whether it was a situation where all the right things were done and one slipped through.

“The fact that it is one family means they had that perfect off-the-grid situation. They’re not messaging by social media.”

Police believe the attacks are likely linked to a deadly 36-hour standoff by militant Islamist prisoners at the Police Mobile Brigade (BriMob) high security jail just outside Jakarta this week in which five members of Indonesia’s elite counter-terrorism force, Densus 88, and one inmate were killed.

Four suspected militants were shot dead and two others arrested in early morning police raids in West Java yesterday in connection with the prison standoff.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, has long prided itself on its reputation for tolerance and pluralism and hosts significant minority Hindu, Christian and Buddhist communities among its 260 million strong population.

But it is struggling to contain rising militancy and intolerance as hardline Islamists increasingly move into the mainstream.

A sustained crackdown following the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings and several major terror strikes in Jakarta _ including one on the Australian embassy _ had made Indonesia a role model for how to suppress Islamic militancy. But the emergence of Islamic State has proved a potent rallying cry for Indonesian radicals.

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