Suicide bombers on motorcycles and including a woman with children have targeted Sunday Mass congregations in three churches in Indonesia’s second largest city of Surabaya.
Police say that at least 11 people have been killed and dozens wounded in one of the worst attacks on the Christian minority.
The first attack struck the Santa Maria 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.
A senior police official said the bombings were carried out by at least five suicide bombers, including a veiled woman who had two children with her. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.
A witness described the woman with children, saying she was carrying two bags at the Diponegoro church.
“At first officers blocked them in front of the churchyard but the woman ignored and forced her way inside. Suddenly she hugged a civilian then (the bomb) exploded,” said a civilian guard named Antonius.
Shattered glass and chunks of concrete littered the entrance of the Santa Maria Church, which was sealed off by heavily armed police. Rescue personnel treated victims on a nearby field while officers inspected wrecked motorcycles in the parking lot that were burned in the explosion.
A street merchant outside the church said she was blown away several meters (yards) by the powerful blast.
“I saw two men riding a motorbike forced their way into the churchyard. One was wearing black pants and one with a backpack,” said Samsia, who uses a single name. “Soon after that the explosion happened.”
National police spokesman Setyo Wasisto announced that police fatally shot four suspected militants and arrested two others early Sunday in West Java towns. It wasn’t clear if the shootings were connected with the church attacks.
“They have trained in order to attack police,” Wasisto said, identifying the militants as members of Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, or JAD. The network of about two dozen extremist groups has been implicated in a number of attacks in Indonesia over the past year. It pledges allegiance to Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The latest attacks in predominantly Muslim Indonesia came days after police ended a riot and hostage-taking at a detention center near Jakarta that left six officers and three inmates dead. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility.
Christians, many of whom from the ethnic Chinese minority, make up about 9 percent of Indonesia’s 260 million people.