THE lone-wolf attacker of a church in North Sumatera, Indonesia had reportedly been “obsessed” with the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, a senior minister said.
The latest attack has raised concern among authorities on the resurgence of Islamic radicalization in the Muslim-majority country.
“From the cellphone that was seized by security forces, this youth was obsessed with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” Chief Security Minister Wiranto was quoted as saying by Reuters.
According to Wiranto, who goes by one name, police found a note in the attacker’s backpack which read, “I love al-Baghdadi”, in apparent reference to the key leader of the IS terror network.
However, authorities have yet to determine whether the attacker, 17-year-old Ivan Armadi Hasugian, had direct links with the militant group.
Meanwhile, initial investigations have also revealed that the youth was an amateur bomb-maker.
According to the Jakarta Globe, Ivan had been testing homemade explosives before the attempted attack on the St. Yoseph Catholic church in Medan on Sunday morning.
North Sumatra Police spokeswoman Sr. Comr. Rina Sari Ginting said accounts from witnesses and family members of the suspect revealed that the teenager had made bombs and attempted to detonate explosives several times.
Rina said the suspects sister, Eva, had heard an explosion at the family home in Medan Selayan on Friday morning, while the suspect’s neighbor identified as Adi, said the supect had attempted to detonate a small explosive the following day, although he initially thought it was a firecracker.
During Sunday mass at the packed church, the assailant – who posed as a member of the congregation – left a bench and ran toward its priest Father Albert S. Pandingan at the altar but did not manage to trigger the bomb hidden in his backpack. Only the attacker was injured in the melee.
The man kept running toward the priest with a burning backpack as the congregation chased and captured him. The suspect was also carrying a knife but failed to inflict any injuries.
The motive of the attack is not clear but churchgoers claimed the perpetrator was carrying with him symbols resembling the IS logo.
Police later seized the homemade bomb equipment, a passport and several ID cards.
Home to the largest population of Muslims in the world, Indonesia has suffered a spate of deadly attacks by Muslim militants since the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.
Authorities have stepped up surveillance in Indonesia’s resort Island of Bali following reports that it could fall victim to another bombing attack.
Police had earlier nabbed a militant believed to be behind the July suicide bombing at the Surakata (also known as Solo) police base and preliminary investigations revealed that the man may have been planning to stage an attack in Bali.
Earlier this year in January, a shootout and bomb attack took place in the capital of Jakarta, killing eight people, including four IS-linked insurgents.