Indonesia police say kill two militants linked to Jolo church bombs

January 6, 2021 - 4:04 PM
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This handout photo released by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Information Office (PIO) Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCON) taken on January 27, 2019, shows debris inside a Catholic Church where two bombs exploded in Jolo, Sulu province on the southern island of Mindanao. (AFP/Handout photo)

JAKARTA — A counter-terrorism unit raiding a militant hideout in central Indonesia on Wednesday killed two men suspected by police of involvement in twin bombings at a Philippine church in 2019 that killed more than 20 people.

Police said in a statement the raid in Makassar in South Sulawesi by the Densus 88 unit led to a fatal shootout with two suspected militants who resisted arrest.

Makassar police chief Witnu Urip Laksana told Reuters separately that the suspects were involved in the bombings of a church on Jolo island in a restive, predominantly Muslim region of the Catholic-majority Philippines.

Police carried out “firm and calculated” action against the two suspects, Witnu said, adding an investigation was ongoing.

Police suspect the men were members of the Islamic State-inspired Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which has carried out a series of attacks in Indonesia.

Philippine authorities have concluded that the January 2019 church attack was a suicide bombing by an Indonesian couple, with the help of a faction of local group Abu Sayyaf, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

More than 100 people were also wounded in the incident, which was among the first and so far deadliest suicide bombings in the Philippines, where such attacks were almost unheard of until 2018.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

The region of Mindanao in the southern Philippines has for decades been beset by separatist and Maoist conflict.

Authorities are concerned about extremism taking a hold in its impoverished, mainly Muslim areas, where operatives from Indonesia, Malaysia and beyond have linked up with local groups to plan attacks and recruit and train fighters. —Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Ed Davies