Jakarta hotel bombs kill nine, wound 42

Near-simultaneous bomb blasts ripped through the JW Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta’s business district on Friday, killing nine people and wounding 42 others including foreign businessmen, police said.

A car bomb had also exploded along a toll road in North Jakarta, police said. Indonesia’s Metro TV said two people had been killed. No further details on that blast were available.

The bomb attacks, the first in several years, could badly dent investor confidence in South-east Asia’s biggest economy. The Indonesian government has made considerable progress in tackling security threats from militant Islamic groups in recent years, bringing a sense of greater political stability to the country.

Indonesia’s parliamentary elections in April and presidential elections earlier this month both passed peacefully, underscoring the progress made by the world’s most populous Muslim nation since the chaos and violence that surrounded the downfall of ex-autocrat Suharto in the late 1990s.

”After the elections going off so peacefully, the bomb blasts have come as a shock. Investors will be keeping a close eye on this one,” said Singapore-based HSBC economist Prakriti Sofat.

Windows were shattered at both hotels, which are close to each other in the Kuningan business area which is popular with foreigners and Indonesians, with many bars, offices and embassies.

Hundreds of police, some soldiers and ambulances were at the scene of the hotel attacks. A Reuters witness said about 100 foreign and Indonesian hotel guests and office workers were gathered outside, some still wearing bathrobes.

The windows in the first floor of the Ritz-Carlton were blown out, indicating the blast may have been in the restaurant, which would have been busy at that time of the morning.

The Marriott was badly damaged by a car bomb attack in 2003 that killed 12 people.

Police said foreigners were among the dead on Friday. Tim Mackay, president director of cement maker PT Holcim Indonesia, was killed in the attacks, the company said.

Indonesian financial markets fell after the blasts, with the the rupiah down 0,7% at 10 200 per dollar, prompting state banks to sell dollars to support the currency, traders said. Indonesian stocks were down around 2%.

”I fell because of an explosion, I did not know where it came from, but after I saw clearly it came from the left side of the JW Marriott Hotel,” said Yanuar, an employee at the Marriott.

TV footage showed a wounded man being carried out on a stretcher with an oxygen mask attached to his face.

Lydia Ruddy, a witness who lives in the area, said she heard an explosion and saw smoke coming from the Marriott, followed five minutes later by another explosion at the Ritz-Carlton.

A Ritz Carlton employee said the Manchester United soccer team had been due to stay at the hotel ahead of an exhibition game in Indonesia early next week.

Islamist militants from the regional Jemaah Islamiah organisation were blamed for numerous attacks between 2002 and 2005 in Indonesia, including bombings on the island of Bali in 2002 that killed 202 people. Many militants have since been arrested. But an Australian security report on Thursday said Jemaah Islamiah could be poised to strike again.

Leadership tensions in JI and recent prison releases of JI members raised the possibility that splinter groups might now seek to re-energise the movement through violent attacks, said the report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. The report said JI was now a splintered group which may not be capable of replicating mass casualty attacks, but warned there was evidence that JI members released from prison ”are gravitating towards hardline groups who continue to advocate al-Qaeda-style attacks against Western targets”.

”These hardline groups continue to believe that the use of violence against the ”enemies of Islam” is justified under any circumstances,” said the report. – Reuters

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