Suicide Bomber Attacks Police Station to Protest Indonesia's New Criminal Code

The bombing comes a day after the passage of a controversial ban on pre-marital sex, blasphemy, and the spreading of views counter to state ideology.
Gavin Butler
Melbourne, AU
indonesia suicide bomb attack
Indonesia's new criminal code has been condemned by human rights groups. Photo by TIMUR MATAHARI/AFP via Getty Images.

A suspected Islamist militant carried out a suicide bomb attack at a police station in Indonesia on Wednesday, just one day after the national government passed controversial new laws banning pre-marital sex and the spreading of views counter to the state ideology, among other things. 

At least one person was killed and ten more were injured during the attack in the city of Bandung, about 115 kilometres southeast of Jakarta. In the wake of the incident, police said they discovered a note—attached to a blue motorbike that is thought to have belonged to the attacker—condemning the new criminal code as “an infidel product.” Indonesian police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo also told a news conference that investigators had found “dozens of papers protesting the newly ratified criminal code” at the crime scene.


The perpetrator has been identified as Agus Sujatno, a man who had previously been jailed on terrorism charges and is believed by authorities to be affiliated with the Islamic State-inspired group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD). Analysts have suggested that the attack was likely an ideological rejection of Indonesia’s new laws, which not only signal a crackdown on civil liberties in the world’s third largest democracy, but also an increased hostility towards the propagation of beliefs that run counter to the country's secular ideology.

Todd Elliott, a senior security analyst at Concord Consulting in Jakarta, said that “While all the attention is on some of these sharia-based provisions in the criminal code and how that is an indication of the spread of conservative Islam in Indonesia, there are also changes in the criminal code that hardliners would not support,” as quoted by Reuters. Among those, Elliott noted, was the outlawing of “any ideology that goes against the state ideology, Pancasila.”

“That would also include extremist ideology,” he said. He also suggested that it was likely the attack had been planned for some time.

Indonesia’s new criminal code, which will apply to both its citizens and foreigners, has been criticised by human rights groups as a step backward for the Muslim-majority nation of 276 million people. Human Rights Watch said the code doesn’t “meet international human rights standards” as it curtails freedom of speech and violates the rights of women, religious minorities, and the LGBTQ community. It also said that new blasphemy laws—which were expanded from one to six articles, and now include apostasy, or the renunciation of one’s religion, for the first time— “is a setback for already declining religious freedom in Indonesia.”


Other new laws from the criminal code ban sex outside of marriage; cohabitation before marriage; insulting the president and state institutions; abortion, except for rape victims; and practicing black magic.

An earlier draft of the new criminal code had almost made it into law in 2019, but was stopped just days before its scheduled passage by Indonesian president Joko Widodo. He had cited public concern over the bill, which sparked nationwide protests involving tens of thousands of people when it was made public.

The newly passed criminal code contains limited changes from the 2019 version. The legislative changes will not be applied immediately, however, as authorities need to work out the implementation of the new regulations—a transition that could take up to three years to complete.

Indonesia, and Southeast Asia more broadly, has been hit with a spate of suicide bombing incidents in recent years. Pulling data from the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) proprietary database, a report by The Diplomat found that between 2004 and 2021 there were ​​34 suicide bombing attacks and attempts in the region. Individuals affiliated with JAD were statistically more likely to carry out such attacks than those affiliated with other Southeast Asian Islamist terrorist groups, the research found.

The report further noted that, while existing globally for several decades, the trend of suicide bombing only penetrated Southeast Asia in the years following the 2002 Bali Bombings, which saw multiple members of the violent Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah attack a tourist district on the island of Kuta, killing 202 people and injuring a further 209.

On Wednesday, the same day as the attack on the Bandung police station, Indonesia’s ministry of law and human rights announced that they had released Umar Patek, a bomb maker in the 2002 Bali attacks, on parole. His release comes just three months after the government announced that Patek’s sentence had been reduced and he was eligible for parole—a decision that sparked criticism from victims' families.

Patek is required to join a “mentoring program” until April 2030, and if any violation is discovered during that time his parole will be revoked, according to the ministry.

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