SURABAYA (Reuters) – The mother of an Indonesian family of six who launched suicide bomb attacks on three churches chatted to neighbours about schooling and swapped recipes, leading what appeared to be a regular middle-class life and eluding counter-terrorism forces.
The family killed at least 18 people, including themselves, by bombing the churches in Indonesia’s second-biggest city of Surabaya on Sunday in the worst militant attacks in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country in more than a decade.
Home was a quiet, relatively affluent neighbourhood of Surabaya. Most houses in the area have hatchbacks and family cars parked outside and in front a small yard more often than not strewn with toys and children’s bicycles.
“My wife talked to the mother all the time about the children’s education, about recipes. They often met at the local market,” said Wery Trikusuma, who lives next door.
“They were quite open and interactive. They contributed money to neighbourhood repairs for example for roads. They often left their front gates open to receive guests, he said, adding it “seemed impossible they could do this”.
The day after the church bombings, six died, including four bombers, in another suicide attack. Another family of five blew themselves up, but the eight-year-old daughter survived.
In another blast in an apartment near Surabaya on Sunday night, three members of a family believed to have been making bombs were killed when one device went off by accident. Three children survived.
Police also later shot dead four people with suspected links to the attacks.
Police suspect the attacks were carried out by a cell of the Islamic State-inspired Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an umbrella organisation on a US State Department terrorist list that is reckoned to have drawn hundreds of Indonesian sympathisers of the extremist group.
The families all lived in ordinary middle-class districts where neighbours say they saw few things to mark them out.
Police say the father in the family that attacked the churches, Dita Oepriarto, was head of the local JAD cell and likely radicalised decades earlier.