x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Suicide bomber wounds 28 in Indonesian police mosque

The man set off his explosives in a crowd of worshippers inside the mosque during prayers in an attack that followed a nearly two-year lull in suicide bombings.

JAKARTA // A suicide bomber blew himself up as police were praying Friday, wounding 28 people in the first attack on a mosque since extremists started targeting the predominantly Muslim country a decade ago.

The attack - which followed a nearly two-year lull in suicide bombings - occurred in the West Java town of Cirebon.

The victims were rushed to hospitals with nails, nuts and bolts embedded in their bodies, said Yeni Rahmawati, a hospital spokeswoman.

Indonesia, a secular nation of 237 million, has been hit by a string of al-Qaida-linked terrorist attacks since the 2002 bombings on two crowded Bali nightclubs that left 202 people dead.

There have been three other major suicide bombings since then, the most recent targeting two luxury hotels in Jakarta in 2009, killing seven and wounding more than 50.

Many of the victims have been foreign tourists.

In the last year, however, militants seeking to carve out an Islamic state have said the country's moderate leaders and security forces would be their main targets.

They've attacked several police posts since then, but never a mosque and their decision to do so during holy prayers Friday shows just how out of touch with public opinion they are. Houses of worship are commonly targeted by militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

"It's really worrisome," said Mardigu Wawiek Prasantyo, an intelligence analyst, noting that the bombing during Friday holy prayers points to a "hardening of militants."

The mosque stood on the grounds of a police compound, but was open to the public. Most of the wounded were officers, among them local police chief.

West Java police chief, Maj. Gen. Suparni Parto, told El-Shinta radio the mangled body of the suicide bomber was found at the scene.

The attacker was apparently wearing a suicide vest beneath his black Islamic robes and sitting among dozens of worshippers when he set off the bomb, shouting "God is great!" said Agus Riyanto, a police spokesman.

Indonesia has battled Islamist militants with links to the Southeast Asian network Jemaah Islamiyah since the 2002 Bali bombings.

Though hundreds of suspected militants have been captured in a security crackdown in recent years, terrorists have proved resilient, with networks splintering and mutating.