An explosion shook a Roman Catholic cathedral compound in the eastern Indonesian city of Makassar Sunday morning, shattering the calm of Palm Sunday, a holy day for Christians.
No churchgoers were killed, but at least 19 people were being treated for injuries at Makassar hospitals, a regional police spokesperson said. The blast was still being investigated, but President Joko Widodo said it was an act of terrorism.
The explosion took place around 10:20 a.m. at the gate to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral compound, said Inspector General Raden Prabowo Argo Yuwono, a spokesperson for the Indonesian National Police.
Shortly before the blast, Argo said, two people on a motorcycle were stopped by church security personnel, who feared that they were trying to target the cathedral just as Mass was ending.
Video from the site, taken soon after the explosion, showed smoldering wreckage and palm fronds scattered on the ground.
Body parts recovered from the blast site were of a man and a woman who were presumed to be the bombers, said Kombes E. Zulfan, the spokesperson for the regional police.
The Rev. Wilhelmus Tulak, a priest at the cathedral, told Metro TV, an Indonesian network, that a parking attendant had been burned as he tried to stop the two people on the motorcycle, who he said looked suspicious.
Mohammad Ramadhan Pomanto, the mayor of Makassar, a multifaith port city of about 1.5 million people on the island of Sulawesi, told Metro TV that body parts were found as far as 200 meters away.
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, has a significant Christian minority. Joko, the president, condemned what he called the “terrorism” at the cathedral and said that “the state guarantees the safety of religious people to worship without fear.”
In a statement, Joko said he had ordered the police to “thoroughly investigate the perpetrator’s networks and dismantle the network to its roots.”
In recent years, Southeast Asian affiliates of the Islamic State group have targeted Christian places of worship in Indonesia and in the mostly Catholic Philippines.
In 2018, three Christian churches were bombed in Surabaya, the second-largest city in Indonesia, leaving a dozen bystanders dead. The suicide bombers were a married couple and their four children. Within days, members of two other families also set off bombs in Surabaya, blowing themselves up.
Last year, a Roman Catholic cathedral was bombed for the third time on the island of Jolo in the southern Philippines, killing at least 14 people. As with the Surabaya bombings, a local affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that strike. A 2019 suicide attack on the same cathedral, which killed more than 20 people, was carried out by an Indonesian couple.
An Indonesian council of Muslim clerics condemned the Makassar explosion, calling it inhumane and against the teaching of all faiths practiced in the country. The council urged that the incident not be linked to any specific religion.