Suicide bombing at Indonesian church injures 22

Associated Press
Indonesian police officer stands guard near an armored vehicle outside a church after an explosion in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011. A suicide bomber attacked the church packed with hundreds of worshippers Sunday, killing himself and wounding at least 20 other people, police and hospital officials said. (AP Photo)
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SOLO, Indonesia (AP) — A suicide bomber blew himself up inside an Indonesian church as hundreds of worshippers were filing out after the Sunday service, injuring at least 22 people, police said.

The bomber's mangled body lay at the entrance of the Tenth Bethel Gospel Church. Around him, screaming people were splattered in blood.

Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo said the low-intensity device appeared to be attached to the man's stomach.

"We are now waiting for DNA test results to confirm his identity," Pradopo said. "We hope to reveal it soon."

A woman working at an Internet cafe near the church in the Central Java town of Solo said the man had visited her shop an hour before the explosion and browsed websites about al-Qaida and a local Islamist group.

He left a bag behind containing a copy of the Quran, a mask and a cellphone charger, Rina Ristriningsih told The Associated Press. She said all of the items had been confiscated by police.

Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim nation of 237 million, has been hit by a string of suicide bombings blamed on the al-Qaida-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah and its offshoots since 2002, when a strike on two Bali nightclubs killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

Subsequent attacks targeting restaurants and hotels have been far less deadly, however, and the last occurred more than two years ago, thanks in large to a security crackdown that led to the arrests and convictions of dozens of suspects.

But bombings by solo "jihadis" targeting Christians, security officers and Islamic sects deemed blasphemous by hard-liners have continued.

Djoko Suyanto, a top security minister, told reporters that Sunday's attack should serve as a reminder that prospective suicide bombers, some without clear motives, are still out there.

It appeared that the bomber entered the church through a side door, mingled with worshippers, and then, when the service was over, headed out with them.

He detonated his device near the entrance, killing himself and wounding at least 22 people, said Pradopo, the police chief.

"Everyone was screaming," Fani, a witness, told Metro TV. Like many Indonesians she goes by only one name.

"I saw fiery sparks and, near the entrance, a man dead on the ground, his entrails spilling out. People around him were splattered with blood."

Members of the congregation said they did not recognize the bomber.

"He walked about 4 meters (yards) behind me," Abraham, who attended the service, told El Shinta radio. "I believe he was disguised as a churchgoer."

Indonesia is a secular nation with a long history of religious tolerance, but a small extremist fringe has become more vocal — and violent — in recent years.

Critics say President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who relies heavily on Islamic parties in parliament, has remained largely silent as minorities have been attacked by hard-liners or seen their houses of worship torched or closed.

However, he was quick to speak out after Sunday's attack.

"Whoever is behind such violence has to be arrested," he said, adding that neither religious nor ethnic differences can justify such actions. "Crime is crime, terrorism is terrorism."

Yudhoyono said there were indications the assailant may have been linked to a terror network in the West Java town of Cirebon that carried out a suicide attack on a mosque packed with police in April.

Thirty people were injured in that attack.

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Associated Press writers Niniek Karmini and Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta contributed to this report.

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