The bombings are a black eye for the country's government, but Reihan Salam says Indonesia won't turn into another Pakistan thanks to a robust democracy that makes it the envy of the region.
As Hillary Clinton touches down in Southeast Asia today, she faces a region rocked by a fresh terror attack. Richard Wolffe on how the crisis is a major test of her diplomatic mettle—and a chance to step out of Obama's shadow.
Bruce Riedel, author of The Search for al Qaeda, says Friday’s bombings in Jakarta targeting Westerners prove the need for constant and renewed counterterrorism efforts.
WHO'S BEHIND THE BOMBINGS
A pair of explosions hit the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels in Jakarta on Friday just after 8 a.m. local time, killing eight and blowing out the windows of one hotel and leaving ambulances to pick up foreigners and locals from the city's business district. The JW Marriott explosion is reportedly a suicide bombing, the Jakarta Post reports. A police officer says that they have uncovered a body “whose head, hands and feet were found separately,” who is thought to have been the bomber. Officials have also uncovered a bag which they believe carried the bomb.
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Senior U.S. officials say that the bombings may have been the work of the Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiya, a group that is connected to al Qaeda. Its chief bomb-maker, Noordin Top, who is thought to have been behind the Bali disco bombing in 2002, was said to be at large and plotting a new attack. Noordin Top is known as a “charismatic” leader for the Jemaah Islamiya, who the U.S. Treasury Department and the UN Security Council have called a “terrorist financier.” According to former White House counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke, Top is currently “one of the most wanted men in Asia.”
Another ringleader is thought to be Abu Bakar Bashir, a Muslim cleric who is reportedly the spiritual leader of JI. He was jailed for immigration violations in 2002 and released in 2005. On Friday morning, Bashir’s lawyer told the Jakarta Globe that his client had nothing to say about the attacks. Bashir apparently denies that the Jemaah Islamiyah group still exists.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced Friday that the bombings were indeed terrorist attacks. “This action was carried out by a terrorist group, though it is too early to say if it is the same network,” he said, referring to the Jemaah Islamiya.
Jakarta police tell The Post that the suspects in the bombing were guests at the JW Marriot, and had checked into room 1808 the night before. The bomb squad found a bomb in that room during their sweep of the building on Friday morning.
“The hardliners in JI are fully supported by a group of younger, dedicated individuals who share a deep commitment to the cause, advocating al-Qa'ida-style attacks that directly target Westerners and Western interests if the time is ripe for them,” wrote Noor Huda Ismail and Carl Ungerer, joint authors of a policy paper titled Jemaah Islamiah: A Renewed Struggle?, in the Australian. “Rather than conforming to a specific terrorist profile, complex radicalisation processes shape these individuals into terrorist operatives.”
It won’t be a surprise if JI is to blame, as Indonesia has a long history of conflict with the terrorist group. Al Jazeera chronicles the history of the country’s 10-year struggle with JI, beginning in 1999, when Muslims and Christians massacred 9,000 people, drawing al-Qaeda links from the Middle East—many of whom went on to join JI.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited victims of the attack at the MMC hospital on Friday, where they are treating 36 people, including 15 foreigners. Though he only stayed 30 minutes, Yudhoyono asked hospital personnel to provide the best care possible to the victims.
Australian trade official Craig Sender was killed in the attacks, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Apparently an American businessman and owner of the think-tank CastleAsia, James Castle, was hosting a high-powered business meeting over breakfast at the JW Marriott when the blast occurred. Castle and other executives at the meeting were rushed to the hospital. Top New Zealand businessman Timothy Mackay, 62, died in the meeting, New Zealand’s TV One reports.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he was “sick to the stomach,” when he heard of the attacks. He has ordered Australian hospitals to reserve space in case victims need to be transferred out of Jakarta, The Herald Sun reports.
Metal detectors in the JW Marriott were not functioning, a fact Jakarta police say was only discovered after the attacks.
Jakarta police are on the highest level of security after the attacks, and are closely patrolling hotels, shopping centers, tourist areas, and main roads. The government has also ordered police to guard important economic locations in the city, which the Minister for the Economy said meant hubs of “energy, electricity, and airports.”
“I was having breakfast on level 16, 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.”— witness to TV One
“There were people in the elevator saying, ‘We have got to get the hell out of here’… The doors opened and the lobby was filled with smoke and everyone was evacuated.”— Tom Warden, who was working at the Ritz-Carlton, in the Australian
“I heard the second [bomb] go off, then all the sirens started ringing out over the city. Then all the phone calls starts. Sometimes I go to the gym in the morning. Luckily I slept in this morning. If I hadn’t, I might have been there.”—Australian travel journalist Natasha Dragun, on Australian blog The Punch
"There were people wandering out of the JW Marriott at that stage, I guess walking wounded would be the best way to describe them. These were people who were, you know, dust-covered, had cuts all over their body, you know, torn clothing. I saw maybe five or six people of that nature just wandering down and just sitting on the kerb [sic.] at the side of the road."— Peter Tuomey, JW Marriott
"The first I knew about it was when some colleagues in the country actually gave me a phone call to tell me to get the hell out of the hotel. So I tried calling up reception, there was no answer. Then I noticed the TV wasn't working. So I looked out of the window and saw, I could see down to ground level and I saw there was a lot of broken glass. So I thought it was time to actually get out. There was no evacuation warning or anything. I guess the surreal thing was going down in the elevator and walking through the lobby and looking across to my left and noticing the actual cafe was completely blown out."— Geoffrey Head, who was on the 23rd floor of the Ritz-Carlton
Compiled by Isabel Wilkinson.