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Bombs at 2 Jakarta Churches Injure 43

Indonesia: Blasts come as proceedings to oust the president begin.

July 22, 2001|From Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Bomb blasts today in the eastern part of the Indonesian capital hit two churches, witnesses said, including one where Mass was being celebrated. At least 43 people were hurt, including a man who lost a leg.

The explosions were the latest to rock Jakarta and come at a time of heightened political tensions as President Abdurrahman Wahid fights to stay in office. Police blamed unidentified forces seeking to disrupt proceedings to oust Wahid.

All of the injuries resulted from the first blast, which tore through the Roman Catholic Santa Ana church as Mass was being celebrated before a congregation of about 800 people.

Church officials said that at least 43 people were injured and that at least 14 of them were hospitalized.

"There was a loud explosion. People ran out in panic. There were clouds of thick smoke, and things fell down from the roof," said Father Suryanto, the priest who was leading the service. Like many Indonesians, he uses only one name.

Minutes later, a bomb went off in a minibus parked outside a nearby Protestant church. There were no injuries from that blast.

Indonesia's national assembly convened a special session amid tight security Saturday and launched proceedings to remove Wahid from office.

Wahid claims that the hearing is unconstitutional. He has warned of possible violence and unrest and has threatened to impose a state of emergency.

In the last two weeks, Jakarta has been hit by other bombings, including two street blasts from grenades thrown out of passing vehicles.

Last Christmas Eve, 17 people died in a series of bombings of churches in Jakarta and other cities.

Wahid blamed those attacks on forces wanting to destabilize his administration, which has promoted religious and ethnic tolerance in overwhelmingly Muslim Indonesia.

The Christian minority mainly consists of ethnic Chinese, who have been targeted during times of political upheaval.

Last year, the city's stock exchange was bombed, and the Philippine ambassador was injured in a blast.

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