Jakarta hotel bombs kill nine, shakes investor confidence
Bomb blasts ripped through the JW Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta’s business district on Friday, killing nine people and wounding dozens in attacks that could dent investor confidence in Indonesia.
A car bomb also blew up along a toll road in North Jakarta, police said without giving further details. Indonesia’s Metro TV said two people had been killed. An unexploded bomb was also later found at the Marriott, police said.
The apparently coordinated bombings are the first in several years and follow a period in which the government had made progress in tackling security threats from militant Islamic groups, bringing a sense of political stability to Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
Suspicion is likely to fall on remnants of the Jemaah Islamiah militant group, blamed for previous attacks including a car bombing outside the Marriott in 2003 as well as bombings on the island of Bali the previous year that killed 202 people.
“I think the attacks are devastating for the image of security that Indonesia has built up painstakingly over the past four years,” said Kevin O’Rourke, a political risk analyst in Jakarta.
“The attack is particularly severe for investor confidence because it took place despite strenuous counter-terrorist efforts by the government and has affected the hotels that are seen to be among the most secure in Jakarta and also either killed or wounded numerous prominent expatriate businesspeople.”
Tim Mackay, president director of cement maker PT Holcim Indonesia, was among those killed in the hotel attacks, the company said. Police said nine people had been killed including foreigners. More than 42 people were wounded.
INDONESIAN MARKETS DIP
Indonesian financial markets fell after the blasts, with the rupiah down 0.7 percent at 10,200 per dollar, prompting state banks to sell dollars to support the currency, traders said. Indonesian stocks were down some 2 percent.
A spokesman for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called the blasts a “terrorist” act. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also condemned the attacks.
The Manchester United soccer team said it had canceled the Jakarta leg of an Asian tour. A Ritz-Carlton employee said the team had been due to stay at the hotel ahead of a game in Indonesia early next week.
Witnesses said the bombings at the Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton were minutes apart and it appeared both had occurred inside the hotels, judging from the way windows were blown out.
That will raise inevitable questions about how tight security at the luxury hotels could be penetrated.
At the Ritz-Carlton, torn curtains flapped around broken windows and glass lay around the hotel. There was blood on the street across from the Marriott. The hotels are near each other in a business area home to many offices, embassies and bars.
Scores of foreigners and Indonesian hotel guests milled behind police lines in the hours after the blasts, some still wearing bathrobes.
“It was very loud, it was like thunder, it was rather continuous, and then followed by the second explosion,” said Vidi Tanza, who works near the hotel, describing the blasts.
PROGRESS SINCE SUHARTO FELL
The bombings will also be a blow for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, re-elected last week in a crushing election victory that reflected the former general’s steady leadership and firm stance on security.
Both parliamentary elections in April and the presidential poll this month passed peacefully, underscoring the progress made by the world’s most populous Muslim nation since the chaos and violence that surrounded the downfall of ex-autocrat Suharto in the late 1990s.
“I would say it damages foreign investor confidence since the attacks appear aimed at Westerners, but not shatter it, so long as there is no further violence for some time,” said Sean Callow, currency strategist at Westpac Bank in Sydney.
Lydia Ruddy, a witness who lives in the area, said she heard an explosion and saw smoke coming from the Marriott, followed five minutes later by another explosion at the Ritz-Carlton.
Jemaah Islamiah, which wants to create an Islamic state across parts of Southeast Asia, was blamed for a string of attacks between 2002-2005 in Indonesia. Many militants have since been arrested. But an Australian security report on Thursday said Jemaah Islamiah could be poised to strike again.
Leadership tensions in the group and recent prison releases of its members raised the possibility that splinter groups might now seek to re-energize the movement through violent attacks, said the report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
The report said Jemaah Islamiah was now a splintered group which may not be capable of replicating mass casualty attacks, but warned there was evidence that JI members released from prison “are gravitating toward hardline groups who continue to advocate al Qaeda-style attacks against Western targets.” “These hardline groups continue to believe that the use of violence against the “enemies of Islam” is justified under any circumstances,” said the report.