JAKARTA (Reuters) - Police and military in Indonesia are on the highest security alert after a bomb was discovered near a church in the outskirts of Jakarta following a series of militant attacks in recent weeks, chief security minister Djoko Suyanto said on Thursday.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, has seen an increase in religious intolerance in recent months, including attacks on Christians and certain Muslim groups deemed deviant by militants.
The country has a secular government and Good Friday celebrated by Christians is a public holiday.
“Military and police, starting from this morning, are on the highest alert, especially ahead of Easter celebrations,” said Suyanto, coordinating minister for political, security and justice affairs. That applied across the vast archipelago, he said.
The bomb discovered 100 metres from a church in Serpong, just outside Jakarta, on Thursday morning had been placed near a big gas pipeline, according to a police source, who said it was being defused.
The police anti-terror unit has netted 19 people in recent days for alleged links to recent attacks, including parcel bombs that were directed at counter-terrorism officials and campaigners for religious pluralism, a suicide bombing in West Java and the latest bomb found on Thursday.
The head of the counter-terrorism agency, Ansyaad Mbai, said its officers had discovered during raids that the group behind the church bomb was also responsible for the parcel bombs.
Last week, thirty people, most of them policemen, were wounded in the suicide bombing in a mosque in a police compound.
Suyanto said police were still investigating the possibility that more bombs had been planted in the country.
He said security would be stepped up for religious activities, at tourist spots, other places often visited by foreigners and embassies.
In a report published on Tuesday, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said the recent suicide bombing attack highlighted a trend of militants acting alone or in small groups to attack Indonesians rather than foreigners to push an Islamist agenda.
Militant attacks and incidents of religious intolerance have risen in recent weeks, with mobs lynching three followers of the Ahmadi sect — an Islamic sect considered deviant by many in the country — and torching two churches on Java island.
Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu; Editing by Alan Raybould and Yoko Nishikawa