Asia Pacific

Family carried out Surabaya police HQ suicide bombing, Indonesia police say

Police say a bomb plot by third family was foiled and are seeking a fourth family suspected of planning another attack

A family carried out a suicide bomb attack on a police headquarters in Indonesia’s second city Surabaya on Monday, police said, a day after a series of coordinated attacks on churches staged by another family.

Four police officers and six civilians were injured in the explosion.

“There were five people on two motorbikes. One of them was a little kid,” national police chief Tito Karnavian said. “This is one family.”

“There were four perpetrators riding two motorcycles who have been confirmed dead, their identity is still being verified,” said East Java police spokesperson Frans Barung Mangera.

“A child who was with them, an eight-year-old girl … has been taken to the hospital.”

Her mother, father and two brothers died in the blast.

Jamaah Anshar Daulah blamed for attacks

On Sunday another family perpetrated suicide bombings on three churches in Surabaya, killing at least 12 and injuring dozens. Three children from the family, aged 9, 12 and 16, and a son aged 18 died in the explosions.

Referring to the church attacks, Islamic State via its Amaq outlet said three “martyrdom operations” had taken place.

Police said the father of the church suicide bombers was a local leader in extremist network Jamaah Anshar Daulah. Also transliterated as Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, it is an umbrella organization designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. Department of State.

According to the January 2017 designation, JAD was formed in 2015 and comprises “almost two dozen Indonesian extremist groups that pledged allegiance to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

Led by jailed radical Aman Abdurrahman, the group has been linked to several other incidents, including a gun and suicide attack in the capital Jakarta left four attackers and four civilians dead in 2016, and was the first assault claimed by ISIS in Southeast Asia.

However, the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict said in a 2016 report that JAD, which translates as “Partisans of the State Group,” is “in fact a generic term used for any supporter of ISIS,” and functions more as an umbrella organisation than a coherent group.

Police chief Karnavian said Sunday’s church attacks may have been revenge for the arrest of some Jamaah Anshar Daulah leaders and for an incident in a high-security prison near Jakarta last week in which five police personnel and a prisoner were killed.

“It ordered and gave instructions for its cells to make a move,” Karnavian said of the church attacks.

Despite their apparent allegiance to ISIS, the family who perpetrated the church bombings were not returnees from Syria, police said Monday, correcting their earlier statements.

Third family bomb plot foiled, fourth family sought

On Sunday evening, just hours after the church bombings, a further three people in another family were killed and two injured after a bomb exploded at an apartment complex in Sidoarjo, about 30 km (20 miles) from Surabaya.

East Java police spokesperson Frans Barung Mangera said the father, Anton Febrianto, was alive but badly injured when police arrived at the apartment.

“He was holding a bomb trigger when officers arrived at the scene. Anton died after police officers decided to gun him down,” Frans said.

His wife and 17-year-old-child were killed. Two other children aged 10 and 11 were badly injured, while another aged 15 was unhurt.

Senior East Java Police officer Mahfud Arifin said on Monday that the family were been planning an attack on a target in Surabaya.

Police said the father in the church bombings, Dita Oepriyanto, was a confidante of the man killed in the apartment.

“The father was Dita’s close friend,” said Karnavian, the police chief. “When we searched the flat we found pipe bombs, similar to pipe bombs we found near the churches.”

Meanwhile, Densus 88, Indonesia’s National Police counter-terrorism squad on Monday arrested six suspects in Surabaya and Sidoarjo over alleged links to Jamaah Anshar Daulah, The Jakarta Post reported. Two suspects were reportedly killed during the arrest operation.

Police also said they are now hunting for a fourth family believed to have recently returned from Syria, who suspected of planning another attack, the Jakarta Post reported.

“Growing technical proficiency”

Indonesian police say they have foiled numerous terror plots, but the coordinated nature of Sunday’s church bombings and the subsequent blasts point to more sophisticated planning than in the past, analysts said.

“There is definitely a growing technical proficiency,” than in past attacks, said Zachary Abuza, professor and Southeast Asian security expert at the National War College in Washington.

“To pull off three near simultaneous bombings is hallmark of a group that is thinking.”

Abuza questioned the police suggestion that the attacks were ordered by the ISIS leadership abroad, but said the group would likely keep up its influence in Southeast Asia as it fades elsewhere.

“[They are] going to continue to benefit from operating transnationally in Southeast Asia,” he added.


With reporting from AFP

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