Al-Qaeda blog claims Jakarta hotel bombings
Two luxury hotels struck by suicide bombers less than two weeks ago reopened on Wednesday in Jakarta, as an internet blog from “al-Qaeda Organisation Indonesia” claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Police said they could not tell if the claim was authentic but it was being investigated as part of the massive probe into the July 17 twin suicide blasts, which killed seven people including six foreigners.
The message in Indonesian and Arabic is signed by “Abu Muawwidz Nur Din bin Muhammad Top” and praises two “holy warrior brothers” who blew themselves up at the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in central Jakarta.
The statement said the attacks were a “martyrdom operation for jihad” intended as “retribution for the deeds of America and its agents against our Muslim brothers and holy warriors in all corners of the world”.
It described victims of the attack as “henchmen of America” and “thieves and robbers of things of value to the Muslims of this country”—a possible reference to three foreign businessmen and a diplomat who were killed.
Police have said the blasts bear the hallmarks of Malaysian Islamist Noordin Mohammed Top, who heads a violent splinter faction of the radical Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) regional terror network.
Noordin is suspected of masterminding suicide bombings in Indonesia in 2003, 2004 and 2005 which killed a total of 42 people and injured scores more.
Police spokesperson Sulistyo Ishak said investigators were still examining the authenticity of the claim.
“We will confirm with the investigation team. It’s for them to investigate if it’s true that this [attack] was carried out by this group,” he told Agence France-Presse.
Terrorism analyst Sidney Jones, of the International Crisis Group, noted that blogs were “often used by some of the jihadi groups”.
“I just don’t know. It’s interesting this time round, if it is him, he’s only claiming to be al-Qaeda for Indonesia and not the Malay Archipelago,” she said.
Noordin has previously said he leads a group called al-Qaeda for the Malay Archipelago.
JI and its allies envision much of Southeast Asia under a caliphate, or Islamic government.
Nervous staff, meanwhile, reopened the two hotels for business amid extra-tight security—including sniffer dogs and dozens of police—due to fears of follow-up attacks.
United States Ambassador Cameron R Hume attended the reopening but there were few signs of paying guests.
The hotels are owned by an Indonesian-Chinese businessman and managed by US company Marriott International.
“We have resumed our normal business operations today. We hope to be able to reach an average hotel occupancy of 60% to 70% like before, in spite of the bombings,” said Marriott spokesperson Ina Ilmiaviatta.
“We have certainly increased our security measures, with some new approaches which I cannot tell you about as they’re confidential.”
The two main areas damaged by the bombs—a lounge meeting room in the Marriott and a restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton—remained closed.
Teguh Santoso, a security guard at the Ritz-Carlton for the past four years, said he was worried about another attack. Twelve people were killed in a suicide truck bombing at the Marriott in 2003.
“Frankly I’m still feeling worried even though I was on the night shift when the bomb attack happened,” he said.
“I will work with maximum efforts to improve the hotel’s security,” he added.
Ritz-Carlton spokesperson Els Ramadhinta said some staff were still receiving trauma counselling 12 days after the attacks.
Dozens of police were standing guard inside and outside the hotels, along with private security guards with sniffer dogs able to detect explosives.
The Ritz-Carlton appeared deserted but the Syailendra restaurant at the neighbouring Marriott had some lunch customers.
“I’m just curious to see what happened here after the bombings.
I’m a regular visitor to this restaurant,” Indonesian customer Esther Dinia, who works in a nearby office tower, said.—Sapa-AFP