Fatal blasts hit Jakarta hotels

Author: By Anthony Deutsch, Associated Press

The blasts at the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels, located side-by-side
in an upscale business district in the capital, blew out windows and
scattered debris and glass across the street, kicking up a thick plume of
smoke. Facades of both hotels were reduced to twisted metal. An Associated
Press reporter at the scene saw bloodied bodies being shuttled away in
police trucks.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the attack was carried out by a
“terrorist group” and vowed to arrest the perpetrators. He said it was too
early to say if the Southeast Asian Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiyah,
blamed for past attacks in Indonesia, including a 2003 bombing at the
Marriott, was responsible.

“Those who carried out this attack and those who planned it will be arrested
and tried according to the law,” a somber-looking Yudhoyono told a news
conference.

The Marriott was hit first, followed by the blast at the Ritz two minutes
later. The attacks came just two weeks after presidential vote expected to
re-elect Yudhoyono who has been credited with stabilizing a nation
previously wracked by militancy.

Theo Sambuaga, chairman of the parliamentary security commission, said “there
are indications of suicide bombs” at the two hotels. “That is being
investigated.”

Local MetroTV reported that investigators suspect the attackers may have been
hotel guests, who smuggled explosives past security checks. An unexploded
bomb was found on the 18th floor of the Marriott after the blasts and
removed by an explosives disposal team, said an investigator who declined to
be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

But top anti-terror official Ansaad Mbai told AP it was too early to conclude
suicide bombers were responsible.

Security Minister Widodo Adi Sucipto told reporters at the scene the hotel
blasts happened at 7:45 a.m. and 7:47 a.m. (0045 GMT, 8:45 p.m. EDT) and
that “high explosives were used.” He said at least nine people were killed
and 50 wounded.

Alex Asmasubrata, who was jogging nearby, said he walked into the Marriott
before emergency services arrived and “there were bodies on the ground, one
of them had no stomach,” he said. “It was terrible.”

Anti-terror forces with automatic weapons were rushed to the site, and
authorities blocked access to the hotels in a district also home to foreign
embassies.

“This destroys our conducive situation,” Sucipto said, referring to the nearly
four years since a major terrorist attack in Indonesia ? a triple suicide
bombing at restaurants at the resort island of Bali that killed 20 people.

The security minister and police said a New Zealander was among those killed,
and that 17 other foreigners were among the wounded, including nationals
from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway,
South Korea the U.S. and Britain.

The dead New Zealander was identified by his employer as Timothy David Mackay,
62, who worked for cement products manufacturer PT Holcim Indonesia. He was
reportedly attending a business meeting at the Marriott Hotel when the
explosions occurred.

Noel Clay, a U.S. State Department spokesman in Washington, said that several
American citizens were among the injured.

Earlier, South Jakarta police Col. Firman Bundi said that four foreigners were
killed, but gave no details.

Manchester United football team canceled a planned visit to Indonesia. The
team had been scheduled to stay at the Ritz on Saturday and Sunday nights
for a friendly match against the Indonesian All Stars, the Indonesian
Football association said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but terrorism
analyst Rohan Gunaratna said the likely perpetrators were from the
al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah.

“The only group with the intention and capability to mount attacks upon
Western targets in Jemaah Islamiyah. I have no doubt Jemaah Islamiyah was
responsible for this attack,” he said.

There has been a massive crackdown in recent years by anti-terror officials in
Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim nation of 235 million, but Gunaratna said
the group was “still a very capable terrorist organization.”

Police have detained most of the key figures in the Indonesia-based Jemaah
Islamiyah, and rounded up hundreds of other sympathizers and lesser figures.

But Gunaratna said that radical ideologues sympathetic to JI were still able
to preach extremism in Indonesia, helping provide an infrastructure that
could support terrorism.

Jakarta chief of police operations, Arief Wahyunadi, said the blasts were in
the Ritz-Carlton’s Airlangga restaurant and in the basement of the Marriott.
He gave no details on what kind of bombs were used and whether they were
suicide attacks.

Government spokesman Dino Patti Djalal told CNN the scene of the blasts were
“eerie,” when he arrived.

“The bodies I saw, some were being collected, some were on the floor,” he
said. “What we know, of course, is this was a coordinated attack.”

When asked if Jemaah Islamiyah was behind the attack, Djalal said: “We always
knew there are terrorists out there. But we’ve had a number of very good
successes; no major attacks since the Bali bombings.”

He was referring to the October 2002 bombings of two Bali nightclubs that
killed some 202 people, many of them foreign tourists.

“This is a blow to us,” Djalal said, but said the government would find those
behind the attacks.

“The president has built his reputation on … anti-terrorism policies,” he
said. “Make no mistake, he will hunt whoever is behind this.”

Because of past attacks, most major hotels in Jakarta take security
precautions, such as checking incoming vehicles and requiring visitors to
pass through metal detectors. Still, international hotels make attractive
targets, since the nature of their business requires them to be relatively
open and accessible.

On Friday, Australia and New Zealand updated their travel advisories, which
had already warned against unnecessary travel to Indonesia because of the
risk of terrorism.

“We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Indonesia due to the very
high threat of terrorist attack,” the Australian Foreign Ministry said on
its Web site. Those in Indonesia were warned to exercise “extreme caution.”

New Zealand urged its citizens in Indonesia to keep a low profile.

Britain also updated its travel warning, though it did not raise its alert
level.

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