They were a family of six — sons 18 and 16; daughter 12 and 9 — out and about in Indonesia’s second-largest city on a Sunday morning, a time reserved for religious services.
But this was no ordinary clan that approached three churches in Surabaya, police say: This was a family of suicide bombers, large and small, intent on carrying out a lethal mission that would kill seven others and injure at least 41.
The use of children in Sunday’s brazen attacks stunned a country that has struggled with growing terrorist threats in recent years.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called the horrific spree “cowardly actions” that were “very barbaric and beyond the limit of humanity.”
The attacks took place in rapid succession, according to Surabaya police.
The father, identified as Dita Futrianto, drove a bomb-laden car into the city’s Pentecostal church, National Police Chief Tito Karnavian said.
The mother, identified as Puji Kuswati, and her two daughters — with explosives strapped to their waists — attacked the Christian Church of Diponegoro, he said.
And the teen sons rode a motorcycle onto the grounds of the Santa Maria Church, a Catholic church, where they set off their explosives.
Futrianto was the head of the Surabaya cell of Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, Karnavian said. The Indonesian militant network is affiliated with the Islamic State and has been implicated in attacks in Indonesia in the past year. Karnavian said the family had returned to Indonesia from Syria.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency. It didn’t mention anything about children taking part and said there were only three attackers.
Indonesia’s deadliest terrorist attack occurred in 2002 when bombs exploded on the tourist island of Bali, killing 202 people. Jemaah Islamiyah, the network responsible for the Bali attacks, was destroyed by a crackdown from Indonesia’s counterterrorism police with U.S. and Australian support. But a new threat has emerged recently, inspired by ISIS attacks abroad.
A witness said a woman arrived at the Diponegoro church carrying two bags.
“At first officers blocked them in front of the churchyard, but the woman ignored them and forced her way inside. Suddenly, she hugged a civilian, then (the bomb) exploded,” said the witness, a security guard who identified himself as Antonius.
At Santa Maria, shattered glass and chunks of concrete littered the entrance. Rescuers treated victims in a nearby field while officers inspected wrecked and burned motorcycles in the parking lot.
“I saw two men riding a motorbike force their way into the churchyard. One was wearing black pants and one with a backpack,” said a merchant outside the church, Samsia, who uses a single name. “Soon after that, the explosion happened.”
The bombings were the worst to target churches in Indonesia since a series of attacks on Christmas Eve in 2000 killed 15 people and wounded nearly 100. Religious minorities in Indonesia, especially Christians, have been repeatedly targeted by militants.
Christians, many of whom are from the ethnic Chinese minority, make up about 9 percent of Indonesia’s 260 million people.