Suicide bomb attack in Indonesian church foiled

Before the attacker was restrained, he managed to take an axe from the backpack and attacked Father Pandiangan, 60, causing a slight injury on his hand

An Indonesian plainclothes policeman detains a terrorist suspect, centre, after an  attempted suicide bombing at St Yoseph Catholic Church in Medan, Indonesia on August 28, 2016. Dedi Sinuhaji/EPA
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JAKARTA // A would-be suicide bomber failed to detonate his explosive in a packed church in western Indonesia during Sunday mass and injured a priest with an axe before he was restrained, police said.

Fr Albert Pandiangan was holding a mass in the city of Medan on the western island of Sumatra when a man approached him and stabbed his left arm, said chief detective Nur Fallah.

“Somebody tried to kill the priest by pretending to attend the church service and at that time tried to explode something, like a firecracker, but the firecracker didn’t explode, it only fumed,” Mr Fallah said.

The attacker carried a homemade explosive device, he said.

The man, who carried a burning backpack, hurled himself at the priest but was held by the congregation.

Before he was restrained, he took an axe from the backpack and attacked Fr Pandiangan, 60, causing a slight injury on his hand, said police spokesman Maj Gen Boy Rafli Amar.

An eyewitness, Markus Manullan, said the assailant wore a jacket and carried a bag.

“He sat in the same row as I did ... I saw him fiddling with something in his jacket, and then I heard a small explosion and he ran to the podium,” Mr Manullan said.

The motivation behind the attack at the Roman Catholic St Yoseph Church in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province, was not clear. A picture of the attacker’s identification card circulating online said he was Muslim.

Police were interrogating the 18-year old man, who told them that he was not working alone, Maj Gen Amar said.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has suffered a spate of deadly attacks by militants since the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.

In recent years there have been a number of attacks on religious minorities and others in Indonesia.

A suicide attack in the Indonesian capital in January killed four attackers and four civilians, including a westerner, and injured 19.

In July, a suicide bomber linked to the ISIL extremist group blew himself up outside a police station in Central Java.

* Associated Press and Agence France-Presse