An Indonesian family of six, repatriated from former Islamic State (ISIS)-controlled territory in Syria, separately targeted three Christian sites in Surabaya, Indonesia, in May. The suicide bombings killed at least 11 people, as well as all of the attacking family members. Indonesian authorities suspect the bombers are affiliated with Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), the Congregation of the Islamic State. While anti-Christian incidents are common in majority-Muslim Indonesia, until now, suicide bombings by Islamists were not often seen there.
The same day, May 14, a second family, affiliated with the same terrorist JAD cell, also staged a suicide attack at Surabaya's police headquarters. A third family was killed in a town outside Surabaya when bombs prematurely exploded inside their home. All three families met regularly for radical Islamic religious sessions.
Indonesia's National Police Chief, Tito Karnavian, indicated that the suicide family that attacked the churches were among an estimated 500 people who had been deported from former ISIS-occupied land in Syria back to Indonesia. A sizeable Indonesian terrorist group, JAD, designated a terrorist entity by the U.S. Department of State, has already pledged loyalty to ISIS, which, through their Amaq News Agency, claimed responsibility for the Surabaya attack. A JAD terrorist cell was also behind the May prison riot in Jakarta, an incident that claimed the lives of five policemen. JAD's leader, Aman Abdurrahman (a.k.a. Oman Rochman), is currently in prison, facing the death penalty for urging his followers to attack a Starbucks and a police post in Jakarta in 2016.
Only one of Indonesia's provinces, Aceh is governed by Sharia law. In Aceh, Koranically approved physical punishments are meted out to "sinners" -- Christians and Muslims alike.
Nevertheless, both of Indonesia's largest Islamic organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, roundly condemned JAD's murderous assault on Christians.
As more Indonesian foreign volunteers navigate their way back to this Southeast Asian nation, however, acts of terror, like these recent attacks, may become the new normal. Because of JAD's affiliation with ISIS and its global resources, the terrorist group is likely to have a much larger impact than its numbers indicate.
Indonesian General Gatot Nurmantyo predicts a dark future for the Indonesian state's rendezvous with terrorism. He says there are sleeper terrorist cells in virtually every one of Indonesia's provinces except Papua. If Indonesia's repatriated foreign fighters have their way, all of the country's churches could well be destroyed. If the repatriated foreign fighters are able to radicalize Indonesia's Muslims, all of the country may eventually resemble Aceh Province, where, after a lengthy reign of terror by Islamic militias, most Christians have been driven out.
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