Jakarta IS violence 'had echo of Paris attacks'

Jakarta IS violence 'had echo of Paris attacks'
5 min read
15 January, 2016
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks in the Indonesian capital which claimed the lives of seven, including the five attackers.
An Indonesian policeman wearing a protective bomb suit approaches bomb damaged traffic police outposts [AFP]

Islamic State group suicide bombers and gunmen struck the capital of Muslim-majority Indonesia on Thursday, executing a Westerner and blowing up a Starbucks.

The scene had echoes of the Paris attacks: A bustling shopping area shaken by the blasts of suicide bombers and gunfire as onlookers fled in terror.

But when Thursday's assault in central Jakarta was over, the death toll was far lower. Of the seven killed, five were the attackers themselves and only two were civilians - a Canadian and an Indonesian. Another 20 people were wounded.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility, saying that the attack was carried out by "soldiers of the caliphate" targeting a gathering of citizens from the "crusader coalition", referring to the US-led alliance combating the jihadists.

Jakarta police said the attack - which also destroyed a police post - was carried out by a network with links to IS in Syria, and indicated Indonesian extremist Bahrum Naim, thought to have joined the group, may have been involved in its plotting.

The IS attack will send a chill through Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia with Muslim populations, where there are fears extremists bloodied on Middle Eastern battlefields could have brought their "jihad" home.

Police said the five-strong cell that struck on Thursday included three suicide bombers who initially targeted a Starbucks near a major shopping centre.

After the first explosion, men armed with pistols took two foreigners hostage - an Algerian and a Canadian.

Soon afterwards, two men riding... motorbikes, ran into a police post and blew themselves up
- National police spokesman Anton Charliyan


National police spokesman Anton Charliyan said the Algerian managed to escape with bullet wounds, but the second man was shot dead on the spot.

"Soon afterwards, two men riding... motorbikes, ran into a police post and blew themselves up," he said, adding four officers had been left in a critical condition.

"From what we see today, this group is following the pattern of the Paris attacks," he added, referring to the wave of killings on the streets of the French capital in November that left 130 people dead.

Reloading

Witnesses described a gunman emerging from Starbucks, who began firing at bystanders and reloading his weapon as security forces approached, taking cover behind vehicles.

"I heard a loud bang, boom. It felt like an earthquake. We all went downstairs," said 32-year-old Ruli Koestaman, who had been in a nearby building when the attack started mid-morning.

"We then saw that the Starbucks downstairs was destroyed too. I saw a foreigner - Westerner, a man - with a mangled hand, but alive.

"A Starbucks waiter then ran out with blood coming out of his ear. And I asked 'anyone hurt inside?' He said 'yes, one. Dead already'.

"Then everybody gathered and a terrorist appeared. He had a gun and started shooting at us and then at Starbucks. Then the police post... exploded."


Graphic photographs from the scene showed the bloodied bodies of what appeared to be two men in civilian clothes lying by the side of a road next to the wrecked police post.

Another body, also apparently male, was pictured lying on his back in the centre of the street, while a fourth, almost naked, lay nearby.

Jakarta police chief Tito Karnavian said bombs containing screws and nails were hurled at police during the shootout, and they found six bombs planted in the area after the hours-long assault ended.

Starbucks said it was shuttering all branches in the Indonesian capital until further notice "out of an abundance of caution" after the attack.

  
The transnational Starbucks brand was targeted [Getty]
    


By Thursday evening, a large screen atop the building that houses the Starbucks displayed messages that said "#prayforjakarta" and "Indonesia Unite." Some people left flowers near the stricken traffic police post, along with a wreath that read "Deep condolences. We are not afraid".

IS in Asia

The area is home to several embassies, including those of the United States, France and Spain. A number of United Nations agencies are also housed nearby.

The UN Environment Programme said a married Dutch employee had been seriously hurt in the attacks and remained in a critical condition.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged people to remain calm.


"Our nation and our people should not be afraid, we will not be defeated by these acts of terror," he said, in comments broadcast by MetroTV.

"We also condemn the act that has disturbed the security and peace and spread terror among our people."

US Secretary of State John Kerry led a wave of global condemnation, saying IS was merely inviting "its own destruction".

"There is nothing in any act of terror that offers anything but death," Kerry told journalists in London.

Indonesia suffered several major bomb attacks by Islamic radicals between 2000 and 2009, including the 2002 strike on the resort island of Bali that killed 202 people.

A security crackdown weakened the most dangerous networks, and there had been no major attacks since 2009, when several foreigners were killed in suicide bombing attacks on luxury Jakarta hotels.

But the New York-based Soufan Group said that, of the 500-700 Indonesians who travelled abroad to join the self-proclaimed caliphate of the IS, scores have since returned.

"We know that [IS] has the desire to declare a province in this region," said Kumar Ramakrishna, a counter-terrorism analyst at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.