TWO Australian businessmen are believed to be dead and grave fears are held for a third after high-explosive bombs ripped through two luxury Jakarta hotels, killing nine people and wounding more than fifty others.
The two Australians are trade commissioner Craig Senger and recruitment specialist Nathan Verity.
In a brazen departure from the usual terrorist method of car bombs placed in streets, this time the attacks came from inside the hotels, targeting Westerners.
Suicide bombers were suspected of being behind the mass murders, which took place when explosives smuggled inside the JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels were detonated within minutes of each other at about 7.45am, local time.
The suspected suicide bomber at the Marriott hotel had disguised himself as a guest, killing at least seven people, senior police said.
Explosives were also found, and defused, in room 1808 on the 18th floor of the Marriott, which police said was the “nerve centre” for the bombers.
Indonesian news sources cited web reports that a Singaporean man, an Indonesian man and an unidentified woman were among the dead.
Video from a security camera at the Ritz-Carlton hotel showed a man wearing a baseball cap and pulling a small wheelie-bag behind him as he entered the hotel lobby.
“I heard an explosion and went down to the first floor and it was a mess. I saw foreigners all bloody, about three to five of them, badly wounded,” Intan, an office worker who witnessed the killings, said.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he believed the attacks, the bloodiest since 2005, were carried out by a “terrorist group”. Analysts widely suspect hardline elements of Jemaah Islamiah, the group behind the Bali bombings for being responsible.
Dr Yudhoyono also revealed there had been threats against him during the recent election campaign.”May the spirits of those killed live in peace with God,” he said.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he was “sick to the stomach” after hearing about the blasts. The Federal Government was working to confirm the identities of three Australians for whom it held great concerns. The two hotels have been considered the most secure in Jakarta yet were infiltrated by the terrorists.
The bombs were detonated near restaurants in both hotels to ensure maximum damage. While not as powerful as the car bombs that rocked Jakarta from 2002 to 2004, the explosives caused as many casualties because they were placed inside the hotels.
The two missing Australians were attending a business roundtable held at the JW Marriott, a regular event that may have been a target of the bombers. Those at the function, hosted by consultant Jim Castles, included more than 40 members of Jakarta’s business elite. One of them, New Zealand-born executive Tim MacKay, 62 was among those slain.
Indonesia has made great strides in combatting terrorism since the wave of attacks that shook the nation in the wake of the first Bali bombing in 2002.
Yet, despite hundreds of arrests, key Jemaah Islamiah figure Noordin Top remains at large and may be the mastermind behind yesterday’s atrocity.
The International Crisis Group’s terrorism analyst Sidney Jones said that the explosions could be related to a recent police investigation.
“The investigation was related to the effort to find (senior JI figure) Noordin Top. The explosions could have a connection to that,” she said.
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