East Indonesia city rocked by suicide bombing

JAKARTA (AFP) – An Indonesian religious building was rocked by a suicide bombing yesterday with body parts littering the chaotic scene as congregants inside celebrated the start of a week of religious observances.

The powerful blast in Makassar city on Sulawesi island happened around 10.30am local time and left at least 14 religious officials and congregants injured by debris, police said.

It was not clear if their wounds were life threatening.

“There were two people riding on a motorbike when the explosion happened at the main gate of the building – the perpetrators were trying to enter the compound,” National Police spokesman Argo Yuwono said.

“The bike was destroyed and there are body parts… We’re still collecting parts and trying to identify the sex of the perpetrators.”

Earlier, local police had said at least one bomber died at the scene. They have not confirmed if both attackers were killed.

Police officer and rescue workers carry a body bag containing what is believed to be human remains outside a religious building where an explosion went off in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. PHOTO: AP

Makassar Mayor Mohammad Ramdhan said, “There are many body parts here at the building compound as well as in the street.”

A witness at the scene described the explosion as “very strong”.

Police said a security guard tried to prevent the motorbike from entering the compound when the blast occurred.

The explosion in Makassar – a port city of about 1.5 million – happened just after congregants finished celebrating the first day of a week religious observances.

“We were finishing the service and people were going home when it happened,” Wilhelmus Tulak told reporters.

Religious buildings have been targetted in the past by extremists in Indonesia.

In 2018, a dozen people were killed when a family of suicide bombers blew themselves up at religious buildings during Sunday services in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya.

The family – including two daughters aged nine and 12 – and another family of five, which carried out a suicide bombing on a police headquarters, all belonged to the same religious study group and were linked to local extremist network Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS).

JAD, which has not claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attack, gained notoriety in 2016 for a gun and suicide bomb attack in the capital Jakarta that killed four civilians and four attackers – including one who blew himself up at a Starbucks outlet.

It was the first attack claimed by IS in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia has long struggled with extremist militancy and has suffered a series of attacks in the past two decades, including the 2002 Bali bombings which killed more than 200 people, mostly foreign tourists. The bombings were Indonesia’s deadliest terror attack.