Friday 17 November 2017

Isil-linked militants' rampage in Jakarta 'inspired by Paris attacks'

A man is seen holding a gun towards the crowd in central Jakarta, Indonesia when seven people were killed.
A man is seen holding a gun towards the crowd in central Jakarta, Indonesia when seven people were killed.
A plainclothes police officer aims his gun at attackers during a gun battle following explosions in Jakarta

James Rothwell in Jakarta

Militants claiming to be loyal to Isil launched combined bombing and shooting attacks in the Indonesian capital Jakarta yesterday, killing at least two people - including a Canadian citizen.

The city was stunned by the Paris-style attacks in which five terrorists are also believed to have been killed.

Witnesses described a series of bombs exploding in the centre of the city.

"A massive bomb went off in front of our new Indonesia office," Jeremy Douglas, regional representative for the United Nations Office for Crime and Drugs, said on Twitter.

He went on to give a live update of events, adding: "Apparent suicide bomber literally 100m from the office and my hotel. Now gunfire.

"Serious exchange of fire in downtown Jakarta. Didn't experience this in 3.5 years in Pakistan."

The assault, which began with an attack near a Starbucks outlet, claimed two lives before security forces moved in. Police said one of the dead was a Canadian and one a police officer, without providing further details.

Police described the attacks as apparently inspired by the Bataclan attacks in Paris in November, which killed 130 people and were led by men who had returned from fighting with Isil in Syria.

The attacks were claimed on a website that has previously been used to publicise Isil attacks.

Isil quickly put out a claim of responsibility - a marked difference to the case of the most recent suicide bomb attack in Istanbul, which was attributed to the group but which it has still not admitted.

Hundreds of Indonesians are thought to have joined Isil fighting in Syria and Iraq, some of whom have returned.

Indonesia has a long history of terrorist attacks on civilian targets - not least the Bali bombing of 2002, when 202 people were killed, many of them tourists.

Since then, security agencies across South East Asia have broken up a number of militant cells. But in 2014, the man regarded as the spiritual godfather of the militant Jemaah Islamiyah group in Indonesia, Abu Bakar Bashir, who is serving a long prison sentence, declared allegiance to the freshly announced 'caliphate' of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Security had been stepped up over the New Year period after Isil issued a warning that there would be a "concert" in Indonesia.

In the event, three suicide bombers and two men armed with pistols began the attacks yesterday morning, starting at the Starbucks opposite a busy shopping mall.

After an initial suicide bomb explosion, the men armed with pistols took people inside the café hostage, shooting one foreign national - said initially to be Dutch.

A local man tried to intervene, and was also shot.

Police moved in, managing to shoot dead the two attackers, but in the meantime there had been a number of other suicide bombings.

There was another siege at Sarinah's, the city's oldest department store, which is nearby.

In total, police later said five attackers, as well as a Canadian victim and a police officer, had been killed by the time the incident was declared over. Two more attackers were seized alive, while two more bombs were found undetonated.

Seventeen people, including the Dutch man, were wounded.

When the area was finally secured a few hours later, bodies were sprawled on sidewalks. But given the firepower the attackers carried - handguns, grenades and homemade bombs - and the soft targets they picked in a bustling, crowded area, the casualties were relatively few compared to the mayhem and carnage caused by the Paris attacks.

"We have identified all attackers... we can say that the attackers were affiliated with the Isil group," national police spokesman Major General Anton Charilyan told reporters.

Isil backers have circulated a claim of responsibility for the Indonesian suicide attacks resembling the extremist group's previous messages.

Jakarta police chief Major General Tito Karnavian told a news conference that the first suicide bombing at the Starbucks restaurant caused customers to run out.

Outside, two gunmen opened fire, he said.

A Dutch Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in the Netherlands said the injured Dutch national was seriously injured and was undergoing surgery.

At about the same time, two other suicide bombers attacked a nearby traffic police booth, killing themselves and an Indonesian man.

Karnavian said that minutes later a group of policemen was attacked by the remaining two gunmen, using homemade bombs. This led to a 15-minute gunfight in which both attackers were killed, he said.

Police then combed the building housing the Starbucks and another nearby building, where they discovered six homemade bombs - five small ones and a big one.

"So we think their plan was to attack people and follow it up with a larger explosion when more people gathered. But, thank God, it didn't happen," Charilyan said.

Karnavian also said the attackers had links with Isil and were part of a group led by Bahrum Naim, an Indonesian militant who is now in Syria.

It was the first major attack in Indonesia's capital since the 2009 bombings of two hotels that killed seven people and injured more than 50 others.

Irish Independent

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