'Mother of Satan' explosives used in Surabaya church bombings: Police

An East Java Police Mobile Brigade officer stands guard on Monday in front of the mortuary where bodies of victims and perpetrators of the suicide bomb attacks are held at Bhayangkara Police Hospital in Surabaya, East Java.
PHOTO: The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian has said the terrorists behind a series of suicide bomb attacks at three churches in Surabaya, East Java, on Sunday, used an explosive type called triacetone triperoxide (TATP). This type of explosive is commonly used by Islamic State (IS) militants when carrying out terror attacks.

TATP, sometimes referred to as "Mother of Satan", is made from materials that are widely available on the market, Tito said.

"All of those materials are very dangerous since they can easily trigger an explosion at random because of their sensitivity," he told journalists in a press conference Surabaya on Monday.

Tito added that unlike any other explosives, TATP did not need a detonator to set the bomb off. "Heat or a mere shaking motion can cause the bomb to explode."

13 dead, 40 injured in Indonesia church attacks

  • A family of six including two young daughters staged suicide bombings at three Indonesian churches during Sunday services,
  • killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens in attacks claimed by the Islamic State group.
  • The bombings at three churches in Surabaya were Indonesia's deadliest for years, as the world's biggest Muslim-majority country grapples with homegrown militancy and rising intolerance towards religious minorities.
  • The church bombers -- a mother and father, two daughters aged nine and 12, and two sons aged 16 and 18 --
  • were linked to local extremist network Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) which supports IS, said national police chief Tito Karnavian.
  • Local media reports say they may have returned from Syria, where hundreds of Indonesians have flocked in recent years to fight alongside IS in its bid to carve out a caliphate ruled by strict Islamic law.
  • The mother, identified as Puji Kuswati, and her two daughters were wearing niqab face veils and had bombs strapped to their waists as they entered the grounds of the Kristen Indonesia Diponegoro Church and blew themselves up, Karnavian said.
  • The father, JAD cell leader Dita Priyanto, drove a bomb-laden car into the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church while his sons rode motorcycles into Santa Maria church, where they detonated explosives they were carrying, Karnavian said.
  • Karnavian said Sunday's church attacks may have been revenge for the arrest of some of JAD's leaders and for the prison crisis which eventually saw the surrender of the radical inmates.
  • President Joko Widodo called for Indonesians to "unite against terrorism". "The state will not tolerate this act of cowardice," he told reporters in Surabaya.
  • East Java police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera confirmed the deaths of 13 people in the church bombings, with about 40 injured in the coordinated attacks

Although TATP is made from widely available materials, Tito explained, the explosive could create a bigger explosion than TNT. It is also difficult to detect it by X-ray, making it a popular type of explosives among terrorists.

Several major bombing incidents causing multiple fatalities, such as the 2005 London bombings, the 2015 Paris bombing, the 2016 Brussels airport bombing, as well as last year's bombing of the Manchester Arena, used TATP.

Before Sunday's Surabaya church bombings, this type of explosive was first reportedly used by Leopard Wisnu Kumala, a 29-year-old man who attempted to extort money from Alam Sutra Mall management by threatening to explode several bombs in the mall in October 2015.

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