Indonesia’s ‘Sick’ New Suicide Bomb Threat: Parents With Their Children

Police officers outside a police station in Surabaya, Indonesia, after an explosion on Monday. A family of five detonated a bomb at the entrance of the Surabaya police headquarters on Monday, injuring four police officers. Credit: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A wave of deadly bombings on Sunday and Monday and evidence of more planned have shaken Indonesia just ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, with entire families — including children — carrying out suicide attacks against Christian worshipers and the police.

The troubling discovery Monday of a trove of completed bombs in a housing complex outside Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, came a day after members of a single family carried out three attacks against separate churches in the city around Mass time, killing seven people.

On Sunday night, three members of another family, including a child, were killed when a bomb exploded at their apartment outside Surabaya when the police moved in to arrest them.

And on Monday morning, a family of five riding on two motorbikes detonated a bomb at the entrance of the Surabaya Police Headquarters — killing all but one of them and injuring four police officers. An 8-year-old girl who was with the attackers survived the blast and was taken to the hospital.

The extent of the carnage and the fact that children were enlisted in the attacks drew condemnation from the country’s leader, President Joko Widodo, who called them “barbaric.” All told, 12 civilians and 13 terrorist suspects were dead from two days of violence, with at least 46 people injured, including police officers.

Police officials said the attackers, whether by blood or other ties, were working together.

“They’re from one organization,” Gen. Tito Karnavian, chief of the National Police, said during a Monday news conference in Surabaya. The city, the capital of East Java Province with a population of almost three million, has a large ethnic Chinese Christian community.

Surabaya Center Pentecostal Church, in East Java, Indonesia, was one of three churches targeted by suicide bombers on Sunday. Credit: Andy Pinaria/Surabaya Goverment , via Getty Images

A day earlier, General Karnavian had said the family suspected in those attacks had recently returned to Indonesia after being deported from Syria.

On Monday, General Karnavian said the bombs that exploded on Sunday and Monday were similar in their construction — highly-powerful and sensitive to movement — to those used by the Islamic State in its war in Iraq and Syria.

He said that these types of bombs are known as the Mother of Satan.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, describing each of the bombings as a “martyrdom” operation carried out by three modes of attack: a car bomb, a suicide vest and a motorcycle-borne bomb.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, practices one of the most moderate forms of Islam in the world, but still has a homegrown terrorism problem.

The country has experienced numerous attacks in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, including deadly terrorist bombings on the resort island of Bali in 2002 and 2005, and bombings of international hotels in Jakarta in 2003 and 2009.

But the use of children in terrorist plots, analysts say, represents a new and shocking development in Indonesia.

“It was in one way expected and also completely unexpected, and that raises it to a new level of sick, using kids in this kind of thing,” said Ken Conboy, a security consultant and counterterrorism analyst in Jakarta.

Rudi Setiawan, chief of the Surabaya police, on Sunday showing a photo of a family suspected of carrying out suicide attacks on three churches. Credit: Antara Foto, via Reuters

During Sunday morning’s attacks, one suicide bomber appeared to have been disguised as a churchgoer. In another, an attacker drove a Toyota minivan with a bomb the site. Still another attacker was seen in footage speeding on a scooter toward a church before an explosion.

In Sidoarjo, a suburb south of Surabaya, a bomb detonated within a family’s apartment as the police closed in on Sunday night, killing the husband and wife and one of their children, and injuring another three children, sa