Mon, 21 Aug 2000

Bombs explode near Medan church

MEDAN, North Sumatra (JP): Two bombs exploded near a small Protestant church here on Sunday morning, but no injuries and only minor damages resulted from the blast, official and witnesses said.

The first blast came from a bomb planted in front of the gate of the Kemenangan Iman Indonesia (Indonesia's Victory of Faith) Church on Jl. Bunga Kenanga in the outskirts of Padang Bulan around 8 a.m. local time.

"The eruption took place before Sunday mass. It damaged the gate and a tree nearby was burned," a witness said, adding that it caused panicked churchgoers to rush out of the building immediately.

The second explosive, wrapped in plastic, was found nearby by residents and church workers who combed the area shortly after the first blast. The latest bomb exploded when it was thrown into a swamp by one of the church workers.

Police confirmed that the two explosives were bombs, but declined to link Sunday's incident to a series of bomb blasts that hit the capital of North Sumatra in May. At least 50 people were injured in the previous attacks.

"They were definitely bombs but we have not yet identified the type. We found nails in the wreckage of the second device," said Medan Baru Police detective chief Second Insp. M. Jawak.

North Sumatra Police spokesman Supt. Amrin Karim said the two hand-made bombs were low explosive ones. "They could not destroy buildings," Amrin said.

"So far there is no sufficient proof that the Sunday explosions are in the same chain with the May blasts," he added.

The town was tense following the blasts, although shops remained open and public transportation continued operating. People cut back on outdoor activities and the streets were quiet.

Amrin called on people to stay calm and avoid becoming provoked into aggressive action by the incident.

"Let's fight the terror and prove that North Sumatran people are not easily provoked," he said.

On May 28, a bomb exploded during a service at the Indonesian Protestant Church in downtown Medan, injuring 47 members of the congregation. Two other bombs were planted at two different churches here, but they did not explode. A day after, an explosion destroyed the upmarket Marimar Restaurant on Jl. Pemuda, injuring three pedestrians.

Many fear that provocative incidents such as the bombing in Medan will lead to greater communal-religious unrest similar to that in Maluku and North Maluku. (39/edt)