The bombers checked in as guests at two American luxury hotels, setting off bombs that killed eight people and wounded more than 50.
Suicide bombers behind blasts at Jakarta hotels
JAKARTA, Indonesia // Suicide bombers who checked in as guests smuggled explosives into American luxury hotels in Indonesia's capital and set off a pair of heavy blasts that killed eight people and wounded more than 50 others today. The near-simultaneous bombings ended a four-year lull in terror attacks in the world's most populous Muslim nation. At least 18 foreigners were among the dead and wounded. The blasts at the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels, located side-by-side in an upscale business district in the capital, blew out windows and scattered debris and glass across the street, kicking up a thick plume of smoke. Façades of both hotels were reduced to twisted metal. Alex Asmasubrata, who was jogging nearby, said he walked into the Marriott before emergency services arrived, "there were bodies on the ground, one of them had no stomach," he said. "It was terrible." The Marriott, which was attacked in 2003 in a bombing blamed on South-east Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah, was hit first, followed by the blast at the Ritz two minutes later. The attacks came just two weeks after presidential vote expected to re-elect incumbent Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who has been credited with stabilising a nation previously wracked by militancy. Local media reported that two people were killed in another explosion in a car in north Jakarta later today. Officials confirmed a blast but said it did not appear to be related. Security Minister Widodo Adi Sucipto told reporters at the scene the hotel blasts happened at 7.45am and 7.47am local time, and that "high explosives were used." He said at least nine people were killed and 50 wounded. Anti-terror forces were rushed to the scene and authorities blocked access to the hotels in a district also home to foreign embassies. "This destroys our conducive situation," Mr Sucipto said, referring to the nearly four years since a major terrorist attack in Indonesia - a triple suicide bombing at restaurants at the resort island of Bali that killed 20 people. The security minister and police said a New Zealander was among those killed, and that thirteen other foreigners were among the wounded, including nationals from Australia, Canada, India, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea and the US. Earlier, South Jakarta police Col Firman Bundi said that four foreigners were killed, but gave no details. The attacks came ahead of a high-profile trip by the Manchester United football team to Indonesia. The team was scheduled to stay at the Ritz on Saturday and Sunday nights for a friendly match against the Indonesian All Stars, the Indonesian Football association said, but has cancelled the Indonesian leg of its preseason tour to Asia. "Following the explosions in Jakarta ? one of which was at the hotel the team were due to stay in ? and based on advice received, the directors have informed the Indonesian FA that the club cannot fulfil the fixture in Jakarta on the 2009 Asia tour," the club said in a statement. They were due to fly to Jakarta after their match in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday evening and play an Indonesia XI in front of a sell-out 100,000 crowd. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna said the likely perpetrators were from the al Qa'eda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah. "The only group with the intention and capability to mount attacks upon Western targets is Jemaah Islamiyah. I have no doubt Jemaah Islamiyah was responsible for this attack," he said. There has been a massive crackdown in recent years by anti-terror officials in Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim nation of 235 million, but Mr Gunaratna said the group was "still a very capable terrorist organisation." Police have detained most of the key figures in Jemaah Islamiyah, and rounded up hundreds of other sympathisers and lesser figures. But Gunaratna said that radical ideologues sympathetic to the militants were still able to preach extremism in Indonesia, helping provide an infrastructure that could support terrorism. Because of past attacks, most major hotels in Jakarta take security precautions, such as checking incoming vehicles and requiring visitors to pass through metal detectors. International hotels remain attractive targets, however, given the nature of their business requires them to be relatively open and accessible. * AP and AFP