| An Indonesian woman cries while praying at the site of the JW Marriott hotel bomb blast in Jakarta. (Reuters)
Jakarta, Aug. 6 (Reuters): Police hunting for clues on who blew up a US-run luxury hotel in the Indonesian capital today said the explosives and methods resembled those used in last year’s deadly Bali nightclub blasts.
Yesterday’s suicide car bomb attack, two days before the first Bali bomb trial verdict and after a spate of global terror warnings, killed as many as 16 people and wounded 150 at Jakarta’s five-star, US-managed JW Marriott Hotel.
Security had already been boosted in central Jakarta after police found the area on a list of potential targets last month when they arrested nine members of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militant Muslim group along with a huge cache of weapons and explosives on Java island, officials said.
Singapore’s Straits Times reported that JI, widely blamed for the Bali attack and linked to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network, had claimed responsibility for the latest blast.
Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer said he was worried about more violence within days in Indonesia.
“I think the world should know that what we are facing is an international terrorist organisation, it is not a domestic terrorist cell,” chief security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said. He said investigations were at an early stage and did not link JI to the attack. However, Jakarta holds JI responsible for last October’s Bali bombings, which killed 202, many of them Australian revellers in two night-clubs. Australian federal police have been working with local police on the Bali investigation, and more officers flew to Jakarta today to help to investigate the hotel blast.
“There was information that explosive materials had entered Jakarta, and... information on strategic areas,” Jakarta police spokesperson Prasetyo said, referring to the raids in Java last month that netted 900 kg of potassium chlorate, 1,200 detonators and several suspected JI members. “We had anticipated it, including the Marriott Hotel where we had increased security,” said Prasetyo. “But the problem is the car... blew up before it entered the secure parking area.”
Indonesian and Australian forensic officers picked through debris in the charred lobby. The blast was believed to have been triggered by a suicide bomber and a severed head was recovered. “This person is alleged to be related to the bomb,” national police chief Da’i Bachtiar said.
The Bali bombs were made of a cocktail of ingredients, including TNT and potassium chlorate — a fertiliser compound.
“The modus (operandi) and the materials used were similar,” Erwin Mappaseng, head of the criminal investigation department, said. “There were low explosives and high explosives, the low was black powder and the high TNT.”
One foreigner, a Dutch Rabobank executive, was among those killed at the Marriott. Singaporeans, Americans, Australians and several New Zealanders were among the wounded in the attack in an area that houses the Chinese embassy and smart diplomatic homes.
Confusion clouded the death toll, with Jakarta police saying up to 10 had died while Australia said the number killed had risen to 16 in an attack clearly intended to target foreigners.
International condemnation was swift. The US offered Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri help in bringing those behind the bombing to justice. Chief security minister Yudhoyono unveiled a new crackdown, including checks on vehicles before they neared building doors.
A key suspect on trial for the Bali bombings welcomed the blast. “I am happy. Thanks be to God, even more so if those who did it are Muslims,” Imam Samudra said as he left court in Bali. “Go to hell Australia,” he shouted in broken English.
Officials were cautious about linking JI to the blast, even as an unprecedented JI claim of responsibility appeared. The Straits Times says it was contacted by a JI operative just hours after the Jakarta blast and claimed responsibility.
The daily’s Jakarta correspondent, in an email, said the operative described the attack as a “bloody warning” to Megawati not to clamp down on militants.