News24

Security tight at Indonesian churches

2011-04-22 10:40

Jakarta - Christians in Indonesia attended Good Friday celebrations under tight security after several bombs were found under a gas pipeline near a church outside the capital.

Authorities deployed hundreds of thousands of police nationwide to protect churches, with 20 000 officers assigned in Jakarta alone.

"If we didn't come today ... the terrorists would just be laughing happily," said Grace Lianawati, 35, who was attending services at the targeted Christ Cathedral Church with her family.

"We're just grateful that the government foiled this plot," the 35-year-old mother of two added. "Just imagine how bad it could have been."

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has been battling extremists since 2002 when al-Qaeda-linked militants attacked two nightclubs on Bali island, killing 202 people, many of them foreign tourists. Several attacks since then targeted glitzy hotels, restaurants and an embassy, but they have been much less deadly and the last occurred two years ago.

A group of terror suspects arrested Thursday led police to the sprawling 3 000-seat church in Serpong, a Jakarta suburb.

There they uncovered nine bombs, several weighing up to 80kg. Some were placed under a gas pipeline metres away, and others in bags. They also found plastic containers filled with high-explosive chemicals.

Ninety percent of Indonesians are Muslim, though most practice a moderate form of the faith and abhor violence. A small, extremist fringe has become more vocal, and violent, in recent years.