Jakarta – A suicide bomber attacked a packed Indonesian church Sunday wounding at least 27 people, some critically, and sending terrified worshippers rushing out into the streets in panic.
The morning bombing in the city of Solo, in Central Java, was the latest in a spate of attacks on minority religious groups in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.
Solo, a city of 500,000, is the home of militant Islamist spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir, who was jailed in June for 15 years for funding a terrorist group that was planning attacks against Westerners and political leaders.
Kristanto, a worshipper, said he and his wife were getting ready to leave at the end of the service at the Bethel Injil Church when the bomb rocked the building.
"I was about to head home when a very loud explosion shocked me. A crowd of people from inside the church rushed to the streets," he told AFP.
"They were screaming and very hysterical. The peaceful Sunday has quickly become a chaotic situation."
"I helped several people who were injured and lying weak on the ground," said the badly shaken 53-year-old, who goes by one name.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the bomber was part of a network based in Cirebon, 185 miles (300km) east of Jakarta, where in April a suicide bomber attacked a police mosque, killing only himself and wounding 30 with a bomb of nails, nuts and bolts.
"This suicide bomber was a member of the terrorist network in Cirebon we mentioned a few months ago. I have called for a thorough investigation to find out more on this group, including who funds and leads them," Yudhoyono said in a televised statement.
"On behalf of the country and my government, I strongly condemn terrorist acts as an extraordinary evil."
A doctor at Minulyo Hospital in Solo, who requested anonymity, said nails and bolts had caused injuries to the three victims he was treating.
The bomber was inside the church with worshippers when he got up and detonated the bomb on his way out.
"He let off the bomb and his guts spilled all over the floor. We are still trying to identify him," said national police spokesman Anton Bachrul Alam. He confirmed that only the attacker had died.
An AFP correspondent saw the bomber's body on the ground at the church's main entrance. He was wearing a white shirt and black trousers.
Most of Indonesia's 200 million Muslims are moderates, but the country has struggled to deal with numerous attacks by radical extremists, like the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) which carried out the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.