Medan police nab teenager in bomb attack on church

Police are seen outside Saint Joseph Catholic Church after a suspected terror attack by a knife-wielding assailant on a priest during the Sunday service in Medan

The 18-year-old charged at the priest with an ax during Sunday mass in the city of Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province, according to Indonesian police. He had with him a small backpack purportedly containing a small explosive device, North Sumatra provincial police spokesman Rina Sari Ginting told reporters.

While the attacker's motive was not immediately clear, he carried a symbol indicating support for the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) group.

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"The pastor managed to escape as the congregation managed to restrain (the attacker)", Ginting said, adding that none of the congregation members were hurt.

Images of the priest later emerged showing him with a bloodied arm, while the suspect's ID card was found at the scene accompanied with a drawing of the Islamic State terrorist flag.

The attacker's house will be searched for bomb-making materials, police said.

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Police were interrogating the man, who told them he was not working alone, but did not provide details of any accomplices.

It remains unclear if the suspect is affiliated with a terror cell and police are investigating potential links.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, but has been hit by violent militant attacks since the 2002 Bali bombings that left over 200 people dead.

An eyewitness, Markus Harianto Manullan, said the assailant wore a jacket and carried a bag.

There have been a number of attacks on religious minorities and others in Indonesia in recent years.

But before he could be restrained the unnamed teenager attacked the Reverend Pandiangan with an axe.