(Jakarta) – Coordinated suicide bombings of three Christian churches and the police headquarters in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, on May 13-14, 2018, were repugnant acts of violence, Human Rights Watch said today. The attackers intentionally used their own children, who were between the ages of 9 and 18, to either carry and detonate explosives or to accompany their parents carrying out the attacks.
The bombings killed at least 12 people, plus 13 attackers and their children, and wounded at least 50 others. Three families linked to the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, an affiliate of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in Indonesia, carried out the attacks. The Islamic State claimed responsibility, calling each of the bombings a “martyrdom” operation.
“The bombings of Christian churches show the grave risks Indonesia’s religious minorities face every day,” said Andreas Harsono, senior Indonesia researcher. “The horror of these attacks was magnified by the attackers using their own children as suicide bombers.”
The first attack occurred on the morning of May 13, when the two sons of Puji Kuswati and her husband Dita Oepriarto, ages 16 and 18, rode a shared motorcycle into the compound of the Santa Maria Catholic Church and then detonated concealed explosives, killing two church-goers and injuring six. Shortly after that, Oepriarto detonated explosives that he had concealed in a van that he had driven into the compound of Surabaya’s Pentecostal Central Church, killing a security guard and a pedestrian. Minutes later, Kuswati entered Surabaya’s Indonesian Christian Church with her two daughters, ages 9 and 12. Witnesses say Kuswati detonated explosives concealed on her body, killing one security guard along with herself and her daughters.