Series of bomb blasts rock Jakarta

A series of bomb blasts has rocked the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, with gun battles on the streets.

The blasts were centred around Thamrin Street, a major shopping and business district close to foreign embassies and the United Nations offices.

Police say the situation is now under control, with five suspected attackers among at least seven people killed.

It is not yet clear which group was behind the assault, which President Joko Widodo called an “act of terror”.

“We all are grieving for the fallen victims of this incident, but we also condemn the act that has disturbed the security and peace and spread terror among our people,” he said.

Eyewitnesses say several attackers entered the cafe and detonated explosives.

Armed police, snipers and armoured vehicles were deployed on the streets of the capital.

Under Control

Gunfire broke out after police arrived at the cafe – there were several further explosions and reports of police chasing suspects. Sporadic gunfire was reported for several hours afterwards. A few hours later, police said four attackers had been killed, then shortly after revised the number to five, including a foreigner.

National Police Deputy Chief Commander Gen Budi Gunawan said two had been killed in a shootout outside a theatre and two others blew themselves up at the police post in front of Starbucks.

Police spokesman Col Muhammad Iqbal said the situation was “under control”, with no suspects hiding inside the shopping centre.

Police had initially said there could be up to 14 assailants. Three attackers have been arrested, reports say.

National police spokesman Anton Charliyan said while it was not yet clear who carried out the attack, IS had warned of a “concert in Indonesia” which would be international news.

He said the attackers had tried to imitate the co-ordinated attacks on Paris and that it was “likely” they were connected to IS, Associated Press reported.

But chief security minister Luhut Pandjaitan said it was “too early” to talk about IS involvement.

“Five terrorists are dead and we don’t know if there are any more. We are investigating,” he said.

Jakarta police have been saying for some time that an attack on Indonesian soil may be just a matter of time.

Although it isn’t yet clear who is behind these attacks, they appear designed to inflict maximum damage.

Although no-one has claimed responsibility for these attacks, in the last few years there have been anywhere between 150-200 Indonesians who it is thought have gone to Syria to fight with IS.

Many have since returned and the police have thought that they might be preparing an attack in Indonesia.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation but by and large is secular, although in recent years the threat of radicalism has remained high as small networks of militants are still thought to be operating in the country.

 

BBC/Nnenna.O