Nine killed in blasts at Jakarta luxury hotels


Jakarta : Two powerful explosions ripped through the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels Friday morning in the Indonesian capital, killing at least nine people and injuring dozens of others, police and the security minister said.

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Six bodies were found in Jakarta’s Marriott Hotel, two in the nearby Ritz-Carlton and another victim died in hospital after the blasts, which took place during the hotels’ busy breakfast time, chief security minister Widodo Adisucipto said.

Four foreigners were killed, including the president of the local unit of Swiss cement maker Holcim Ltd, Timothy Mackay, a New Zealander, media reports said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned the bombings, vowing to hunt and capture the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

“This action was carried out by a terrorist group,” Yudhoyono told a press conference. “Those who carried out this attack and those who planned it will be arrested and tried according to the law.”

Leading Indonesian lawmaker Theo Sambuaga said the attacks were “suicide bombings” while international terrorism experts pointed a finger at Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional terrorist group affiliated with the Al Qaeda network and blamed for numerous other bombings in Indonesia.

A bomb-disposal squad found and defused an unexploded bomb in a room of the Marriott, while rescue workers removed a head and body parts, including legs, from the Marriott restaurant.

More than 40 people were injured in the blasts and were taken to nearby hospitals, Widodo said.

Television footage showed severely injured victims, including foreigners, being taken out of the Marriott hotel.

Smoke was rising from the hotels, and glass from broken windows and other debris were scattered on the ground.

Jakarta police spokesman Chrysnanda, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, confirmed that the blasts came from “high-explosive bombs”.

“An investigation is under way by bomb experts,” he said.

The first explosion hit the Ritz-Carlton, destroying its facade, and the second blast hit a restaurant in the nearby Marriott a few minutes later.

Lesley and Paul Harbon, Australian guests at the Marriott, said there was no taking the explosion at the hotel for anything other than a bomb.

“It doesn’t sound like anything else you’ve ever heard,” Lesley Harbon said in a telephone interview from the couple’s new Jakarta hotel. “You couldn’t mistake it.”

Paul Harbon, who was eating breakfast downstairs at the time, had an easier time evacuating than his wife, who was in the couple’s room.

“I ended up in the bottom of the building,” she said. “There was floodwater everywhere, and there were no lights. I just screamed and screamed until someone came to get me out.”

The hotels, connected by an underground tunnel and located in a business and diplomatic district, were popular with foreigners as a venue for business meetings because they were thought to be well-protected. The Harbons said they had been impressed with the security when they checked in Thursday night.

The blast was the second bombing on the Jakarta Marriott. In August 2003, a militant drove a bomb-laden truck into the lobby of the hotel and set it off, killing 12 people and injuring 150.

“The only group that has the ability to carry out such attacks is Jemaah Islamiyah,” terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna told Channel News Asia.

Until Friday, Indonesia had not had a major bombing since October 2005 when militants belonging to Jemaah Islamiyah blew themselves up at three restaurants in Bali, killing 20 people.

Jamaah Islamiyah, also known as JI, is also blamed for the October 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, mostly foreign holidaymakers.

Analysts have said that the group’s violent faction has been severely weakened after the arrests of scores of operatives in recent years but determined militants were still capable of mounting a deadly attack.

“The signs were there over the last few months that this hard-line group within JI was disaffected with the lack of a bombing campaign over the last couple of years and was clearly intent on doing something,” said defence analyst Carl Ungerer, director of the Canberra-based Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

The hotel bombings came a little more than a week after the July 9 presidential election, in which Yudhoyono appeared set to win a second five-year term although the final results have yet to be officially confirmed.

Yudhoyono has been credited with restoring security after a spate of deadly attacks blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah since the start of the decade.

English Premier League champions Manchester United cancelled their plans for friendly match with an Indonesian All Star, scheduled for Monday. The Manchester United players were due to stay at the Ritz-Carlton.