9 dead, 40 wounded as bombs hit 3 Indonesian churches

JAKARTA: Three attacks including one by a suicide bomber disguised as a churchgoer targeted three churches in Indonesia's second largest city early Sunday, killing at least nine people and wounding dozens, police said.

The first attack struck a Sunday Mass at the Santa Maria Roman Catholic Church in Surabaya, killing four people, including the suspected bomber, police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera told reporters at the scene. He said two police officers were among a total of 40 wounded.

Shattered glass and chunks of concrete littered the entrance of the church, which was sealed off by heavily armed police. Rescue personnel were treating victims on a nearby field while officers were inspecting wrecked motorcycles in the parking lot that were burned in the explosion.

The blast was followed by a second explosion minutes later at the Christian Church of Diponegoro that killed two people. Another two died in a third attack at the city's Pantekosta Church, Mangera said.

One person died in a hospital, bringing the death toll to nine, he said.

The bombings were the worst since a series of attacks on churches on Christmas Eve in 2000 killed 15 people and wounded nearly 100. Religious minorities, especially Christians, have been repeatedly targeted by militants.

The latest attacks in predominantly Muslim Indonesia came days after police ended a riot and hostage-taking at a detention center near Jakarta that left six officers and three inmates dead. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility.

Indonesia has carried out a sustained crackdown on militants since bombings by al-Qaida-affiliated radicals in Bali in 2002 killed 202 people. In recent years, the country has faced a new threat as the rise of the Islamic State group in the Middle East invigorated local militant networks.

Christians, many of whom from the ethnic Chinese minority, make up about 9 percent of Indonesia's 260 million people.