How depraved is a cause that uses children to sow terror?
On Monday, an Indonesian family brought its eight-year-old daughter to a suicide bomb attack on police headquarters in Surabaya, just a day after members of another family—also with their children in tow—launched suicide bombings on three churches, killing 12 people.
Police said the girl, who was with two of the attackers on a motorcycle, survived being thrown by the blast at Surabaya’s police headquarters. The two girls in the previous attack—aged eight and 12—were not so fortunate.
The Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility for the church bombings.
The flurry of bombings in Indonesia has raised concerns that militant networks in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation have been reinvigorated by the return of some of the estimated 1,100 Indonesians who went to fight with the Islamic State in Syria. Experts have warned for several years that when those fighters return, they could pose a significant threat.
Police said the church bombers and the police headquarters attackers were friends, as were another family whose homemade bombs exploded in their apartment Sunday night.
Neighbors said the family that carried out three church bombings in Indonesia’s second-biggest city on Sunday were just “ordinary” people.
Yet their father, 46-year-old Dita Oepriarto, dropped his wife, 42-year-old Puji Kuswati, and two girls aged 12 and 8 to one church, before driving a car packed with explosives to another, and blowing it up.
At another church across town, the couple’s two sons, aged 17 and 15, rode an explosive-laden motor scooter into a crowd and set it off.
All told, 25 people have died since Sunday including a total of 13 militants and their children.
The neighbors of the family were in shock, saying there were no warning signs of what they were about to do.
Because of its battlefield losses in the Middle East, it is tempting to portray ISIS as a spent force. But the recent attacks in Surabaya, Indonesia, and, closer to home, the bloody takeover of Marawi City by ISIS-inspired terrorists last year are grim reminders that to do this would be foolhardy.
The use of children is a horrifying new twist that clearly demonstrates the ability of ISIS to brainwash its followers, under the guise of religion, into furthering its destructive, hate-driven agenda.
We can ill afford to underestimate this threat. It is imperative that we coordinate and cooperate with our neighbors to stamp out ISIS wherever it gains a foothold.