>Pastor Rick Warren confirms sister church attacked
>Saddleback Church has up to 20,000 active members
>Unclear U.S. link prompted bombing
By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
JAKARTA, INDONESIA (BosNewsLife)– A suicide bomber has attacked a Protestant church in Indonesia’s Central Java province which has close ties with one of America’s largest congregations, its pastor revealed Sunday, September 25.
Pastor Rick Warren of the 20.000-strong Saddleback Church in Southern California confirmed the attack, in which the bomber died and over 20 others were injured.
On his Facebook website and Internet messages service Twitter he wrote: “Purpose Driven Network Alert: Our sister church in Solo City, Indonesia, Bethel Full Gospel Church, has just been bombed.”
Police earlier reported that one other person had been killed in the attack, but later clarified that the only person who died was the bomber.
The church is known in Indonesia as the Bethel Injil Church. It was not immediately clear whether the church had been targeted because of its ties to the Saddleback Church in the city of Lake Forest.
Warren, an influential church leader and author, did not comment further on the attack as Indonesian authorities continued there investigations.
The bomber reportedly left a bag behind containing a copy of the Koran, deemed a holy book by Muslims, a mask and a cellphone charger.
Investigators said the items had been confiscated by police. Hundreds of worshippers reportedly gathered when the attack rocked the building at the end of the church service.
“Everyone was screaming,” said one witness, who only uses the name Fani. “I saw fiery sparks and, near the entrance, a man dead on the ground, his entrails spilling out. People around him were splattered with blood.”
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the bomber was part of a network based in Cirebon, 300 kilometers (186 miles) east of the capital 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.
Solo is also the home of radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who was jailed for 12 years for funding a terrorist group that was planning attacks against Westerners and political leaders.
He is considered the spiritual leader behind the group that killed more than 200 people in Bali in 2002.
Christian churches have been targeted by Islamic militants who oppose the spread ofChristianity and want to establish strict Islamic rule in several parts of the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
The same militants have also targeted security officers and even Islamic sects deemed “blasphemous”. Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim nation of 237 million, has been hit by a string of suicide bombings often blamed on the al-Qaida-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah and its offshoots since 2002, when attacks on two Bali nightclubs killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists. (Follow BosNewsLife’s News feed via Twitter).