Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the suicide bomber who detonated a device outside a Christian church in Solo in Central Java province over the weekend was a member of a terrorist cell based in Cirebon, West Java.
“Based on the early investigation, the suicide bomber is a member of the terrorist network in Cirebon,” Yudhoyono told reporters at a press briefing in Jakarta. “I have instructed the National Police to dismantle the network of actors and their funding.”
The attack killed the bomber himself and wounded 27 other people who were leaving church service, according to Anton Bahrul Alam, a spokesman for Indonesia’s national police in Jakarta.
One witness to the blast, a woman Fani, had told Metro TV: Everyone was screaming. I saw fiery sparks and, near the entrance, a man dead on the ground... People around him were splattered with blood.
Alam said that police will upgrade security at churches to thwart future attacks.
“We will secure the churches before praying time, and we will check people who want to enter the church,” he said. “We don’t want it to happen again. We will do it in all churches in Indonesia, so they can pray peacefully.”
Indonesia is a secular state with the world’s largest Muslim population (at least 200-million). However, over the past decade, more than 200 people have died in alleged attacks by Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a militant group connected to al-Qaeda.
Solo, site of the recent blast is the home-base of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, reputedly the spiritual leader of JI.
This past summer, Ba’asyir was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for financing terrorism. In 2006, he was acquitted of the massive bombing that killed more than 200 people at the tourist resort of Bali.
In April, a suicide bomber attacked a mosque in Cirebon, killing himself and wounding several others.
Nusron Wahid, the youth leader of GP Ansor, a wing of Nadhlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Muslim organization, said his group will also help to protect places of worship with the help of 500 volunteers.
Wahid told reporters at a press briefing in Jakarta: “Not only churches are threatened by the terrorists, but also mosques and the national police. It means that this country is threatened. My suggestion is the intelligence agency should openly communicate with any communities and social elements in order to get information. The intelligence agency should not only rely on the official sources, they should be aware of information from the street.”