A suspect is questioned after the attack at St Joseph Church in Medan.
A knife-and-axe-wielding man carrying home-made explosives attacked an Indonesian priest during a service yesterday in the north Sumatran city of Medan, causing minor injuries before being beaten and wrestled to the ground by parishioners.
Police said the 18-year-old had disguised himself as a member of the congregation of St Joseph’s Catholic Church but leaped up to attack Father Albert Pandiangan midway through the service after a home-made pipe bomb in his backpack detonated without exploding.
Indonesian national police spokesman Agus Rianto told The Australian the attack happened at 8.30am as Father Pandiangan held mass.
“The priest was cut on his left arm,’’ Brigadier General Rianto said. “Churchgoers stopped him from doing more harm and pinned him to the ground.
“The churchgoers noticed that the man had left his bag and that smoke was coming out of his backpack. There was a loud bang, like the sound of a firecracker; however, no one was hurt.”
Police say they found a pipe connected to a few wires inside his bag, which eyewitnesses said detonated with a bang similar to that of a firecracker, emitting a small amount of smoke and sparks during the service but causing no damage.
Similar pipes, which police said they believed to have contained explosives, were also found in the churchyard and inside a gutter in front of the church.
General Rianto said police had recovered an identity card for an 18-year-old Muslim man named Ivan Armadi Hasugian, with police later confirming that as the name of the suspect.
A spokeswoman for the local Medan police, Rina Sari Ginting, said they were treating the incident as a “terrorism attack” and had found wires in his house identical to those used in his home-made bombs. “We are still interrogating him,” Ms Ginting said.
“So far he has claimed he was told to do it by a man he met on the street. We have also brought his parents in for questioning.”
But General Rianto said: “We need to study first who the suspect is and whether he has ties to known terrorists”.
Parlindungan Manik, a 36-year-old St Joseph’s parishioner, said he heard the bang and saw the smoke but not the attack.
“By the time I got up, people were swarming the suspect; some were restraining him but others were so upset that the suspect managed to hurt the pastor they couldn’t contain themselves and beat the man,” Mr Manik told The Australian.
“I never imagined this could happen at my church. I guess we all have to be careful from now on but it’s hard when you come to pray and at the same time you have to watch your surroundings for anything suspicious.”
Photographs of the suspected attacker circulated on social media, including on a Facebook page for St Joseph’s Church.
They showed him shirtless, in a pair of blood-spattered white and red sports shorts, his face covered in blood. “May God forgive him. Lord Jesus is good, miracles real”, one parishioner wrote on the Facebook page beneath photos of the man.
Last month, an 84-year-old French priest was murdered by two men who stormed a church in the northern French town of Rouen. The attackers, who were shot dead by police, claimed to be members of Islamic State.