By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Police in Indonesia have uncovered an Islamist terrorist plot to attack several churches and assassinate a church leader in the country’s Christian-majority province of Papua, Worthy News learned Thursday.
Members of the Densus 88 counter-terrorism squad and local police made at least ten arrests across southern Papua on May 28, sources confirmed.
“The suspects are believed to be connected to Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD),” said Barnabas Fund, an aid group working in the region.
The detained suspects have links to the Islamic State group, according to investigators. It came as welcome news for Barnabas Fund, which provided replacement Bibles to Christians in Papua province after heavy flooding in 2019.
JAD terrorists had been planning to bomb churches in the region
“They intended to commit suicide bombings at several churches in Merauke, Jagebob, Kurik, Semangga, and Tanah Miring,” police said in published remarks.
One suspect allegedly revealed during police questioning that suicide bombers had attempted twice to kill one of Papua’s most senior church leaders. He reportedly survived because on both occasions, the Christian was targeted when he was out of town, Christians said.
PALM SUNDAY ATTACK
News of the arrests came after recent attacks, including on Palm Sunday this year when two JAD suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a church in Makassar city on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
“Nineteen people were injured in the attack. But the toll could have been worse had a security guard not prevented the bombers’ motorcycle from entering the church gates,” Barnabas Fund said.
JAD, which operates throughout Indonesia, is also suspected of carrying out suicide attacks on three churches in Surabaya, on the Indonesian island of Java, in 2018, killing 13 people and wounding 40 others.
Another Islamist terrorist group with links to IS, the East Indonesia Mujahideen, killed four Christian farmers working in a coffee plantation on May 11, 2021, in Central Sulawesi.
The East Indonesia Mujahideen’s operations are mainly confined to Central Sulawesi province.
Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population and has seen a rise in hard-line Islamic ideology in recent years, Barnabas Fund noted. “A generation ago, Muslims and Christians lived peaceably as equals by Pancasila,” the official foundational theory of Indonesia.
The crackdown on Islamic militants comes just months after Indonesia’s Muslim President Joko Widodo chose a Christian to become the country’s police chief. Commissioner General Listyo Sigit Prabowo, a Protestant, was the only nominee and was approved by the House of Representatives on January 20.
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