JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – Islamic militants involved in a plot to bomb an Indonesian church ahead of Easter celebrations wanted to film and broadcast the inferno, which would have occurred as thousands of people were arriving for services, police said Friday.
The plot, uncovered Thursday, has put the nation in a state of high alert with hundreds of thousands of police deployed at churches, 20,000 in the capital alone.Maj. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam, spokesman for the national police, said the 19 suspects who led authorities to bombs planted beneath a gas pipeline near the Christ Cathedral Church just outside of Jakarta did not appear to be part of any large, existing terrorist organization.Other bombs were left in bags not far from the entrance.
“At this moment, it looks like a new cell,” Alam told reporters Friday, adding that the suspects, all in their 30s and many of them university graduates, told police they had been planning to film the fiery explosion.”They wanted to make a movie and then broadcast it … that was the plan,” he said.
Indonesia, a secular nation with more Muslims than any other in the world, has been battling extremists since 2002 when al-Qaida-linked militants attacked two nightclubs on Bali island, killing 202 people, many of them foreign tourists. Several attacks since then targeted glitzy hotels, restaurants and an embassy, but have been much less deadly and the last occurred two years ago.
In recent months, militants have shifted their focus.In seeking to carve out a Muslim state, their main enemies now are security forces who have spearheaded the anti-terror fight, the country’s moderate Muslim leaders, members of “deviant” sects, and Christians.Individual “jihadis” and small cells with little or no directive from larger terror groups have attacked police posts, sent mail bombs and carried out the country’s first suicide bombing at a mosque.
Alam said the terror suspects arrested Thursday – including some who were allegedly involved in earlier attacks – said they got their inspiration and bomb-making skills from books and other hard-line literature.He said they had tested some explosives – including bombs weighing up to 175 pounds (80 kilograms) – last month.The bombs, safely diffused after a painstaking 10 hours on Thursday, had been rigged to go off at 9 a.m. Friday, just as services at the 3,000-seat Catholic church were beginning.
Worshippers were not deterred, filing into the targeted Christ Cathedral Church in Serpong and others nationwide on Friday.”If we didn’t come today … the terrorists would just be laughing happily,” said Grace Lianawati, who was accompanied by her family.”We’re just grateful that the government foiled this plot,” she added. “Just imagine how bad it could have been.”
Ninety percent of Indonesians are Muslim, with most practicing a moderate form of the faith and abhorring violence. A small, extremist fringe has become more vocal, and violent, in recent years.( NINIEK KARMINI/Associated Press/IM