Who did it?


* Is it the work of Muslim militants? * Did the military have a hand in it? * Could it have been done by communists?

Senior Indonesian military officials yesterday blamed Muslim fundamentalists for the murderous wave of explosions across the archipelago on Christmas Eve.

But some officers and observers acknowledged privately that the nationwide attacks on churches could not have taken place without the backing of disgruntled army generals with personal ambition and an axe to grind against the civilian government.

A senior army intelligence officer in the Jakarta military command told The Straits Times that police had recovered documents “with a heavy Islamic content” in a workshop in Bandung, West Java.

“The documents tell us that the perpetrators wanted to create an Islamic state,” he said. “They were intent on using force to achieve their objective.”

He disclosed that preliminary findings suggested a radical Muslim group, which he refused to name, was likely to be working with the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

“Some of the explosives that we found are similar to what the rebels have been using in Aceh,” he said.

He said that the armed forces (TNI) were unlikely to have used TNT-based explosives, which were used predominantly by GAM.

“The Indonesian army only uses modern explosives. Which professional army in the world uses TNT today?”

Some officers also referred to the possibility of communist involvement.

Retired Lt-General Soeyono said that Sunday’s bombings were reminiscent of the political turbulence of the 60s.

“The Indonesian communist party still has deep roots in the country,” he said. “They are resorting to what they tried to do in 1965: to pit religious and ethnic groups against one another.”

But groups outside the military are sceptical that the still powerful TNI had nothing to do with the violence.

Mr Egi Sudjana, who heads the one-million-strong Muslim Solidarity Union, said that the Christians were “colluding” with several army officers whom he described as being linked to the former Intelligence chief Benny Murdani.

“This is nothing but a plot by the Christians to make us the scapegoat. Why should we go around attacking churches? It makes little sense.”

Critics of the military charge that there are strong grounds to suggest TNI’s involvement in the latest round of violence to rock Indonesia.

The army’s fingerprints were very clear: The scale and the systematic nature of the bombings suggested only an organisation with grassroots reach and logistical capability could have carried it out.

A three-star general conceded that TNI elements could be behind the attack.

He said: “The military as an institution will never sanction what took place on Sunday. This is the work of maybe some generals working together with other groups which share similar interests.”

These groups include former President Suharto’s family and the elite of the New Order regime. The Muslim fundamentalists were used as proxies.

Another senior officer told The Straits Times that the Christmas Eve violence was no different from other incidents that had taken place over the last year.

“It’s always easy to find a bogeyman in Indonesia,” said the one-star army general. “They can be the Islamic right or communists.

“But the core of today’s problems in Indonesia is due very much to factionalism and rivalry in the armed forces. Some generals are willing to sponsor violence to move up the ranks.”


At least 15 people were killed and dozens others injured when bombs exploded almost simultaneously in or outside churches in various towns on Sunday as Indonesia’s minority Christian community was preparing to celebrate Christmas.

We detail when and where the explosions occurred.

4.30 pm A welding workshop, believed to have been used to store and assemble bombs, in Bandung, West Java. Three died.
9.45 pm Christian cemetery in Kampung Kapitan, East Nusa Tenggara. No fatalities.
7.30 pm One bomb found outside of the Gereja Bethlehem Pantekosta Pusat Surabaya church in Mojokerto, East Java. It did not explode.
7.50 pm Koinonia church in East Jakarta. Three injured.
8.00 pm Pentecostal church in Mojokerto, East Java. Five injured.
8.30 pm A bomb exploded inside the same GPPS church in Mojokerto, East Java. One injured.
8.30 pm One bomb was found at the Anglican Church, Central Jakarta. It did not explode.
8.45 pm Oikumene church, outside of the Halim Perdana Kusuma military airport in East Jakarta.
9.00 pm Cathedral church in Mojokerto, East Java.
9.00 pm Cathedral church in Central Jakarta. Five injured.
9.00 pm St Joseph, East Jakarta. Three died, eight injured.
9.10 pm Near the Kanisius church, Central Jakarta.
9.15 pm Gereja Sidang Kristus, Sukabumi, West Java. A woman, a 10-year old and a two-month-old baby were killed when a bomb exploded in their car.
9.18 pm Gereja Kristen Protestan Indonesia, South Bekasi, West Java.
9.18 pm Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) Church in Sukabumi, West Java. Two injured.
9.30 pm HKBP Church in Pekanbaru, Riau. Three church officers and two police officers, called in to guard the church, were killed. Five others injured.
9.55 pm GPPS Immanuel church in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara. No fatalities.
10.00 pm GPPS Bethlehem, Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara. No fatalities.

* Three separate bomb blasts in Batam, including the Gereja Kristen Protestan Simalungun church and a worship place at the May Market. No fatalities, but 22 people were injured, 13 of whom were hospitalised.
* Ten bombs found in Medan, including in nine churches and one Catholic home. These bombs were defused.
* Three bombs found in Pematang Siantar, a town just outside of Medan. Two were defused while one went off in a priest’s home. He suffered slight injuries.

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