Surabaya church bombings: Woman, children deliberately used in suicide mission, expert says

Surabaya church bombings: Woman, children deliberately used in suicide mission, expert says
This handout photo released by the Presidential Palace on May 13 shows President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo (second right) with officials at the scene of an attack outside the Surabaya Pentecostal Church. A series of blasts, including at least one suicide bombing, struck churches on Sunday, killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens in the deadliest attack in years in the world's biggest Muslim-majority country.
PHOTO: AFP

Three alleged suicide bombers, a woman and two children who reportedly detonated bombs at Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) on Jl. Diponegoro in Surabaya, East Java, on Sunday morning, were deliberately selected to carry out the attacks to draw less attention, an expert has said. 

Solahudin of the University of Indonesia's Center for Terrorism Studies and Social Conflict said terrorist groups used women and children in suicide missions because they drew less suspicion from security officers.

Women and children bombers also attract more media attention, Solahudin added.

“Terror without media will not successfully spread the fear. The news value of [using] women and children as bombers is higher than using male bombers,” he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

A witness, Tardianto, who was watching as the attack unfolded from a street vendor near Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) on Jl. Diponegoro, Surabaya, East Java, said the two women and a young girl wearing niqabs hurriedly entered the area surrounding the church.

13 dead, 40 injured in Indonesia church attacks

  • Open gallery

    A family of six including two young daughters staged suicide bombings at three Indonesian churches during Sunday services,

  • Open gallery

    killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens in attacks claimed by the Islamic State group.

  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery

    The church bombers -- a mother and father, two daughters aged nine and 12, and two sons aged 16 and 18 --

  • Open gallery

    were linked to local extremist network Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) which supports IS, said national police chief Tito Karnavian.

  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

    President Joko Widodo called for Indonesians to "unite against terrorism". "The state will not tolerate this act of cowardice," he told reporters in Surabaya.

  • Open gallery

    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

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

According to Tardianto’s account, a security officer at the church was walking behind and trying to stop them, however the two women split up before detonating their explosives. The young child reportedly survived, but suffered injuries.  

The police have taken Tardianto to a police station for further questioning.

Mulyanto, 55, a parking attendant at the GKI church, was quoted by kompas.com as describing the suicide bombers as  “a woman along with two children in black veils and vests” who entered the church's front yard before the bomb went off.

If the witnesses' accounts are accurate, it would be the first case of female suicide bombers in Indonesia’s history.

Solahudin said he believed the attack was also meant to encourage others to be braver in launching other terror attacks given the fact that the alleged bombers were women and children.

“This attack is also a message to provoke the group [of the alleged attackers],” he said.

Bomb attacks also struck two other churches, Santa Maria Tak Bercela Catholic Church on Jl. Ngagel Madya in Gubeng and Surabaya Pentecostal Church on Jl. Raya Arjuna, on Sunday morning. At least 13 people were killed and dozens others wounded in the attacks. 

Purchase this article for republication.
Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.