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Terrorist attacks a wake-up call for Indonesia and the region

Jakarta must ramp up its anti-terrorism efforts at a time when extremists have become ever more barbaric, even using children to carry out their dastardly deeds

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 May, 2018, 6:24am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 May, 2018, 6:24am

Terrorism has been taken to a barbaric new level in Indonesia, with the members of two families killing church-goers and police in suicide attacks in the second-largest city of Surabaya.

An Islamic State-inspired network has been blamed for the incidents, which were in keeping with the extremist group that has been forced out of Syria and Iraq; it seeks to destroy core values of diversity and tolerance.

‘Suicide squad’ family on motorcycles attacks Indonesian police HQ

Those are prized in the nation of 260 million people, where a majority of Muslims live peaceably beside large numbers of Buddhists, Christians and Hindus.

The new tactic and a rising threat across Asia require security officials to ramp up counterterrorism measures and improve coordination with other governments.

Indonesia is in the grip of a spate of Islamist attacks. In the first bombings on May 13, a mother and two daughters, aged eight and nine, struck one church, while her husband and two sons targeted two others; 18 were killed, including the attackers, and more than 40 injured.

The blasts were the nation’s worst in a decade and were reminiscent of a deadly series of strikes on churches in 2000. 

Indonesia under pressure to pass anti-terror law after suicide attacks

Last Monday, a family of five on two motorbikes rode to a checkpoint at Surabaya’s police headquarters and detonated bombs; four of the family were killed and six civilians and four police officers injured.

In separate incidents, a family of three died when a bomb exploded in their flat near Surabaya and police reportedly arrested six terror suspects in the city.

The nature of the attacks has raised concerns about the reach of jihadist networks and the teachings of radical Muslim clerics. President Joko Widodo called the attacks “cowardly, undignified and inhumane” and promised to push through a long-delayed anti-terrorism bill.

But Indonesia, like other Muslim parts of Asia, faces a challenge in tackling extremism as a result of growing religious conservatism and the return of thousands of former IS fighters from the Middle East.

What drove this family of six to go on a terror suicide mission?

There are now added security worries for Indonesia, which hosts the Asian Games in August and the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Bali in November.

The attacks have to serve as a wake-up call for heightened anti-terrorism efforts in the nation and region.