Muslim Extremist Who Attacked Church in Indonesia Tried to Go to Syria

Priest, three parishioners and policeman wounded in sword attack.

(Morning Star News) – A Muslim extremist who attacked a Catholic church in Indonesia on Sunday (Feb. 11) had tried to go to Syria, according to reports.

The 23-year-old identified as Suliyono of Bayuwangi in East Java wounded a priest and three others during Mass at St. Lidwina Catholic Church in Central Java’s city of Yogyakarta. National Police Chief Tito Karnavian told Agence France-Presse that Suliyono’s application for a passport to go to Syria had failed due to ID problems, and that police were still trying to determine if he acted alone or as part of a group.

Suliyono reportedly stormed into the service brandishing a meter-long sword and began striking people. The Rev. Karl-Edmund Prier, an 81-year-old German-born priest, was reportedly standing at the altar when he was seriously wounded.

The university student from East Java was reported to have seriously injured three other people and decapitated statues of Jesus and Mary before police arrived after 15 minutes, fired a warning shot and shot him in the leg. Some 100 people were estimated to have been attending the service.

All four wounded worshipers received hospital treatment, and a police officer was also reportedly injured in the attack. Witnesses reportedly said Suliyono first struck a parish member before charging toward the altar in the middle of the Mass.

The Jakarta Post quoted National Police spokesman Setyo Wasisto as saying that the assault fit a pattern of recent attacks by terrorists in other countries, and that Suliyono had been radicalized after joining several religious organizations, which he declined to name, while a student in Sulawesi.

Setyo told the Post that Suliyono had searched the Internet for a weapon and the nearest church and while staying in a Muslim prayer room in Yogyakarta. He said Suliyono had exchanged his mobile phone for the sword used in the attack.

Naming Suliyono a terrorist suspect, police on Tuesday (Feb. 13) charged him with persecution, sharp-weapon ownership and terrorism, according to the Post. He could face the death penalty under Indonesia’s 2003 Terrorism Law, legislation that is under revision in the House of Representatives.

After being hospitalized, Suliyono was taken to Jakarta for further questioning on Wednesday (Feb. 14).

Yogyakarta, regarded as the cultural heart of Java, Indonesia’s main island, is about 310 miles (500 kilometers) southeast of Jakarta.

Previous attacks in recent years include the August 2016 knife attack on a priest during a Sunday service of the St. Joseph Catholic church in Medan, North Sumatra. On Nov. 13, 2016, a home-made bomb was launched at a church service in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, killing a 2-year-old girl and seriously injuring three other children.

Indonesia ranked 38th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is mot difficult to live as a Christian.

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