Terrorist attacks rekindle Indonesians' anxieties

  • Discuss Comment, Blog about
  • Print Friendly and PDF

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - The terrorist attacks that struck two luxury hotels in the capital have shaken ordinary Indonesians who had grown more confident after waves of arrests had left the nation's al-Qaida-linked militant network seriously weakened.

Coming four years after the country's last serious terrorist attack, Friday's twin suicide bombings at the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta unleashed a new wave of anxiety in the world's largest Muslim-majority country.

"I am shocked by these bombings," Razif Harahap, 45, a Jakarta graduate student said Sunday. "The same people who carried out these attacks could launch another one, because the mastermind is still at large. We have to be careful."

The latest attacks killed seven, plus the two suspected attackers, and wounded 50, many of them foreigners.

Police have yet to name a suspect in the bombings, but the method, target and type of bombs used in the attacks immediately raised suspicions of involvement by the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group and Noordin M. Top, the fugitive Malaysian national who heads a particularly violent offshoot of the network.

A report from Indonesia's official Antara news agency Sunday said the government was intensifying its efforts to find Noordin and had enlisted the help of Malaysian authorities. Among other steps, the report said, investigators were attempting to trace the network's finances, seeking links to Friday's blasts.

Police also said they were following leads in the Cilacap region of Central Java, where explosives were last week reportedly found buried in a garden at the house of Noordin's father-in-law, who is also at large.

Investigators have been examining body parts and other forensic evidence from Friday's attacks in an attempt to identify the two suspected bombers, one of whom is believed to be Indonesian.

Their bodies were badly damaged in the explosions - they were decapitated by the force - and confirming their identity could help determine if they knew Noordin.

Officials have identified five of the dead - three from Australia, one from New Zealand and one from Indonesia. The Health Ministry initially reported the death of a Singaporean, but police said they were unable to confirm that.

Among the dead was Craig Senger, the first Australian government official to be killed in a terrorist attack, the Australian Associated Press quoted Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as saying on Sunday.

Senger worked as a Trade Commission officer at the embassy in Jakarta.

Officials said 17 foreigners were among the wounded, including eight Americans and citizens of Australia, Britain, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and South Korea.

Television stations showed interviews with victims of Friday's attack, including Yusuf Purnomo, a waiter at a restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton who suffered a shrapnel wound to his right arm.

Speaking in a soft voice to Metro TV from his hospital bed, Purnomo said he considered himself lucky because he would eventually be able to get back on his feet.

"My body is intact, but what about the victims who lost their limbs and can't work anymore?" he said.

Jemaah Islamiyah militants rose to prominence after the 2002 nightclub bombings in the beach resort of Bali that killed 202 people, most of them foreigners.

It staged attacks in Indonesia in each of the next three years: a 2003 car bombing outside the J.W. Marriott, a 2004 truck bombing outside the Australian Embassy, and triple suicide bombings on Bali restaurants by attackers carrying bombs in backpacks in 2005.

After the government launched a major anti-terrorism campaign, no major attacks had been reported since then - until Friday's explosions.

While Friday's attacks rekindled old anxieties, Indonesians interviewed Sunday said they did not believe the bombings signaled a resurgence of strength by the militants, who want to establish an Islamic state in the region.

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population, but the Islamist extremists enjoy little support among the nation's largely moderate public.

The terrorists do not have enough money and support to launch another major attack soon, said Agus Triharso, 40, a motorbike taxi driver in Jakarta.

"Noordin Top and his friends have support from just a few hard-line Muslims," Triharso said. "As Muslims, we have to stop them."


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment