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Indonesian student 'admits plotting suicide attack'

Confession sparks concern churches could be being targeted by terror groups again

Indonesian police guard Santa Maria Catholic Church in Surabaya after it was attacked by suicide bombers on May 13, 2018

Indonesian police guard Santa Maria Catholic Church in Surabaya after it was attacked by suicide bombers on May 13, 2018. (Photo: Ryan Dagur/UCA News)

Published: May 26, 2022 09:35 AM GMT

Updated: May 27, 2022 08:48 AM GMT

An Indonesian student arrested by anti-terrorism forces has admitted being radicalized by the Islamic State group and wanting to carry out a suicide attack on a public target that could have included a church, according to police.

The 22-year-old student at Brawijaya University in Malang, East Java province, who was not named, was arrested at his lodgings on May 23.

National police spokesman Ahmad Ramadhan told reporters on May 25 that the student had been in close contact with a suspected terrorist from the Jamaah Ansharud Daulah (JAD) group who was detained earlier this year.

"Their communication was in the context of planning an amaliyah on a public facility or a police station," he said, referring to the Islamic term commonly used by extremist groups to launch an attack or suicide bombing.

Ahmad said the student was also involved in raising funds to help Islamic State activities in Indonesia. "He also managed social media activities in order to spread Islamic State material related to terrorism," he said.

Abdul Hakim, Brawijaya University's vice-chancellor for student affairs, said he was "very sorry and concerned" about this incident. 

He said the student's intention to carry out a suicide bombing should serve as a warning, especially for churches that have been a favorite target of terrorist groups in Indonesia

"The university makes efforts to prevent students from becoming involved with extremists through a national insight program for new students," he said.

Stanislaus Riyanta, terrorism observer and executive director of the Center for Indonesian Political and Strategic Policy Studies at the University of Indonesia, said the student’s arrest was disturbing but showed how terrorists have penetrated various levels of society.

He said the student's intention to carry out a suicide bombing should serve as a warning, especially for churches that have been a favorite target of terrorist groups in Indonesia. "It is not impossible for these atrocities to happen again,” he said.

East Java was rocked by a suicide bombing blitz by two radicalized families in 2018.

The attacks in Surabaya, the provincial capital and Indonesia's second-largest city, on May 13 of that year were carried out by members of the same family and targeted one Catholic church and two Protestant churches. The attacks killed 19 people and injured dozens.

Another attack on the city's police headquarters the following day by another family killed at least four people and injured 10 others.

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