Indonesian Catholics escape suicide bomber

Catholic worshippers in Indonesia have had a lucky escape after an attacker inspired by so-called Islamic State (ISIS) failed to detonate the explosives he was wearing during Sunday Mass. 

The incident happened at St Joseph’s Church in Medan, the capital of the North Sumatra province last Sunday when a teenager sitting with other worshippers attempted to set off an explosive device. However, it appears that only the detonator of the bomb went off, leading to chaos in the church. Witnesses have spoken of a “small explosion, like fireworks”, indicating how close the attacker had come to creating carnage within the building.

Altar

Amid the ensuing confusion, the attacker stormed the altar and tried to set about parish priest, 60-year-old Fr Albert Pandiangan, with an axe. However, parishioners moved swiftly to restrain the youth and Fr Pandiangan was spared serious harm.

The attack on Fr Pandiangan bore the hallmarks of a copycat attack to that on the late Fr Jacques Hamel who was targeted as he celebrated Mass in Normandy in France. Just last January, Muslim extremist gunmen took to the streets of the Indonesian capital Jakarta in an attack mirroring that of the ISIS attack on Paris the previous November. Eight people died in the Jakarta episode, a figure which included four gunmen.

Explosives

Police investigating the St Joseph’s attack have revealed that the attacker was carrying a hand-drawn ISIS flag, but his explosives were “rudimentary”, a fact that will do little to calm fears of more ISIS-inspired attacks. It was subsequently revealed by the country’s Chief Security Minister Wiranto that the would-be suicide bomber was “obsessed” with ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and had carried a note declaring “I love al Baghdadi”.

Indonesia, the most populace Muslim nation on earth, has been struggling with extremism since the Bali bombings of 2002 which claimed 202 lives, many of them foreign tourists.