Suicide bomb hits Palm Sunday Mass in Indonesia, 20 wounded

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Police officers inspect the area near a church where an explosion went off in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, Sunday, March 28, 2021. A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a packed Roman Catholic cathedral on Indonesia's Sulawesi island during a Palm Sunday Mass, wounding a number of people, police said. (AP Photo/Masyudi S. Firmansyah)

JAKARTA – Two attackers believed to be members of a militant network that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group blew themselves up outside a packed Roman Catholic cathedral during a Palm Sunday Mass on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, wounding at least 20 people, police said.

Rev. Wilhelmus Tulak, a priest at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar, said he had just finished celebrating Palm Sunday Mass when a loud bang shocked his congregation. He said the blast went off at about 10:30 a.m. as a first batch of churchgoers was walking out of the church and another group was coming in.

He said security guards at the church were suspicious of two men on a motorcycle who wanted to enter the building and when they went to confront them, one of the men detonated his explosives.

Police later said both attackers were killed instantly and evidence collected at the scene indicated one of the two was a woman. The wounded included four guards and several churchgoers, police said.

National Police Chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo told reporters when he visited the crime scene late Sunday that the two attackers are believed to have been members of the militant group Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State group and was responsible for deadly suicide bombings on Indonesian churches in 2018.

He said one of the attackers was believed to have links to a church bombing in the Philippines.

The attack a week before Easter in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation came as the country was on high alert following December's arrest of the leader of the Southeast Asian militant group, Jemaah Islamiyah, which has been designated a terror group by many nations.

Indonesia has been battling militants since bombings on the resort island of Bali in 2002 killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. Attacks aimed at foreigners have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, police and anti-terrorism forces and people militants consider as infidels.