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Monday 17 December 2018

Two families with young children behind Indonesian suicide blasts

Youngsters aged eight, nine and 12 were used in the attacks, which left 12 people dead.

Road blocks were set up in the wake of the bombings (AP)
Road blocks were set up in the wake of the bombings (AP)

By Niniek Karmini

An Indonesian family brought their eight-year-old daughter to a suicide bomb attack on the police headquarters in the country’s second-largest city, authorities said, a day after members of another family conducted coordinated suicide bombings on three city churches that killed 12 people.

National police chief Tito Karnavian said the girl, who was with two of the attackers on a motorcycle, survived being thrown by the blast at Surabaya’s police headquarters. The attack killed the four perpetrators. Six civilians and four officers were wounded.

The attack came just hours after police said the family that carried out the church bombings included girls aged nine and 12.

The flurry of attacks have raised concerns that previously beaten down militant networks in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation have been reinvigorated by the return of some of the estimated 1,100 Indonesians who went to fight with the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria. Experts have warned for several years that when those fighters return, they could pose a significant threat.

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Officers block the road outside a local police headquarters following an attack in Surabaya, Indonesia (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

IS claimed responsibility for the church bombings in a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency. Mr Karnavian, however, said earlier police comments that the family had spent time in Syria were incorrect.

He said the church bombers and the police headquarters attackers were friends, as were another family whose homemade bombs exploded in their apartment on Sunday night.

The use of children in the attacks has been particularly horrifying to people. Indonesia’s president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo condemned them as “barbaric” and vowed that authorities would root out and “destroy” Islamic militant networks.

Security camera footage of the attack on Surabaya’s police headquarters showed at least one explosion after the four attackers rode two motorcycles up to a security checkpoint. The motorcycles, which moved closely together, pulled up alongside a car and four officers manning opposite sides of the checkpoint.

Two men, apparently civilians, were walking into the area just metres from the motorcycles at the moment of the explosion, which a split second later was followed by a second possible blast.

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Officers set up a police line outside the local police headquarters following an attack in Surabaya (Achmad Ibrahim/AP)

Mr Karnavian has said the father of the family that carried out the church bombings was head of the Surabaya cell of Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, an Indonesian militant network affiliated with IS that has been implicated in attacks in Indonesia in the past year. All six members of the family were killed.

Separately on Sunday, three members of another family were killed when homemade bombs exploded at an apartment in Sidoarjo, a town bordering Surabaya, police said.

The church attacks occurred within minutes of each other, according to Surabaya police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera.

Mr Karnavian said the father drove a bomb-laden car into the city’s Pentecostal church. The mother, with her two daughters, attacked the Christian Church of Diponegoro, he said. Based on their remains, Mr Karnavian said the mother and daughters were all wearing explosives around their waists.

The sons aged 16 and 18 rode a motorcycle onto the grounds of the Santa Maria Church and detonated their explosives there.

Press Association

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