They said they figured it was safe to go because the service was almost over, but that excuse looks bad and smells worse. If nothing else, it shows what a low priority security for Indonesian Christians and their churches is, as Fides has also just reported that scores of churches have been shut down there since 2010, and at least 9 were closed or demolished this year.
One will recall that the most recent wave of violence against Christians in this area, to which this bombing may be connected, was set off by a rumor that Christians had tortured and killed a Muslim who had in fact died in a traffic accident.
“Police Say They Mishandled Security at Bombed Church,” by Ezra Sihite, Camelia Pasandaran, Dessy Sagita & Arientha Primanita for the Jakarta Globe, September 30 (thanks to Twostellas):
Police acknowledged on Wednesday that they had received advance warning of an attack against the Central Java church that was hit by a suicide bomber last Sunday but had failed to respond appropriately.
National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo said an ongoing internal investigation of intelligence failings found that police had responded to the potential threat by setting up a CCTV camera outside the Bethel Injil Sepenuh (GBIS) Kepunton church in Solo and posting two officers to stand guard there.
However, the suicide bomber, identified as Achmad Yosepa Hayat, was recorded on CCTV loitering outside the church then entering unchecked to detonate his bomb just as members of the congregation were leaving. Dozens were injured, but only the bomber was killed.
Timur said the officers assigned to guard the building had left by that point because it was approaching the end of the service and they thought it would be safe to go. He promised a thorough probe into the lapse.
“Intelligence about this kind of attack must be followed up on. With early warnings we still need to determine how a potential attack will be carried out,” he said.
Timur’s statement has been seized on by analysts as vindication of the intelligence community, which has come under fire over its perceived failure to flag the potential for an attack. Police are also being condemned.
The State Intelligence Agency (BIN), however, has come to the police’s defense, arguing it was difficult to take action like making a pre-emptive arrest based solely on intelligence.
“The coordination between our institutions is good, but in order to get the preliminary evidence needed to take legal action [make an arrest], the intelligence must be analyzed further,” said Sutanto, the BIN chief and a former head of police.
“Intelligence info can’t be used as evidence in a trial, so there needs to be revisions to the legal framework to ensure an appropriate security response for activities that individuals can’t be charged with currently.”
Wan Usman, a defense expert from the University of Indonesia, insisted that police incompetence was to blame for not preventing the Solo bombing.
“It wasn’t an intelligence failure, it was the police’s mistake for not [treating the intelligence] professionally,” he said. “What also needs to be questioned is who the police deployed to the scene immediately after the blast. By rights, they should have sent Densus 88 [the elite counterterrorism squad], but for all we know they might have sent the traffic police.”
Usman said that rather than maintain a heavy police presence at potential terrorist targets, it would be more effective to deploy personnel who could think quickly and make snap decisions.
If the officers sent to guard the GBIS church had shown those qualities, he continued, the attack might have been prevented.