By Berni Moestafa and Achmad Sukarsono - July 17, 2009 06:34 EDT
July 17 (Bloomberg) -- Bombs tore through the Ritz Carlton and JW Marriott hotels in Jakarta, killing eight people and injuring at least 51 others in Indonesia’s first terrorist attack in almost four years.
Two blasts at about 7:45 a.m. local time rocked the hotels in an up-market shopping and business district, killing eight people, ripping the façade off the Ritz, blowing out windows and showering the street with glass and debris. The dead included the New Zealand-born president of cement maker PT Holcim Indonesia.
The attacks come nine days after elections in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, in which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won a second five-year term after improving security and pledging to reduce corruption and boost economic growth.
The bombings bear the hallmark of Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna said. “The intelligence and security services have been caught by surprise,” he said. “The bombings show that JI is revived.”
Indonesia has been free of terrorist attacks since 2005 after a six-year bombing campaign blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah left about 280 people dead.
“This terror attack has a wide impact on our economy, the investment climate, our tourism industry and our image in the world,” Yudhoyono told reporters, adding he has ordered a “swift and thorough” investigation.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the “senseless acts of violence” and said the U.S. is ready to provide assistance to the government.
Authorities found explosive devices similar to those found after previous attacks, police spokesman Nanan Soekarna said in Jakarta today.
The bombing may have been a suicide attack or detonated by a remote control device, he said. Police defused a third unexploded bomb in a room at the Marriott, Soekarna said.
The attackers may have stayed at the JW Marriott hotel, said Djali Yusuf, an adviser to Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Police found an unexploded bomb in room 1808 at JW Marriott, Yusuf said by telephone in Jakarta.
A group of chief executive officers were attending a business forum hosted by CastleAsia, a business advisory group, at the Marriott when the bomb exploded, said Puni Anjungsari, senior associate at Kiroyan & Partner, whose president Noke Kiroyan was attending the meeting.
TVOne showed closed-circuit television footage of a man walking in with a briefcase before the blast.
English soccer champion Manchester United scrapped its first trip to Indonesia because of the blasts. The team was scheduled to stay at the Ritz from tomorrow and play an Indonesian Super League XI on July 20.
Shards of glass were all that remained of windows in the Ritz’s badly damaged restaurant, where cables and plaster dangled from the ceiling.
Authorities cleared the hotels of injured people within half an hour of the explosions and deployed about 300 soldiers from the Jakarta Military Command.
“The lobby of the Ritz Carlton was destroyed,” said Rubi Purnomo, a spokesman at the Indonesian unit of Newmont Mining Corp. who witnessed the blasts from an adjacent building.
Ingan Tarigan, a housewife shopping in a market a block away from the hotels, said she heard the blasts. “I tried to find my way back home but the police closed several roads,” she said. “I saw people running.”
The MMC Hospital, a medical center closest to the hotels, was crowded with people suffering burns, cuts and broken limbs.
“I head a blast from Marriott and then another blast,” Alex Asmasoebrata, a former legislator, who was jogging near the hotels. “From Marriott I saw a lot of people coming out, and saw Westerners with severed legs and limbs.”
Timothy David Mackay, president director of Holcim Indonesia, died in hospital after being caught in the Marriott blast, said Budi Primawan, a company spokesman. The company is the local unit of the world’s second-biggest cement maker, Holcim Ltd.
At least four executives from the oil and gas industry were injured in the attacks, said Sulistya Hastuti Wahyu, a spokesman for the industry regulator, BPMigas. Two employees of Freeport- McMoran Copper & Gold Inc. were also injured, the company said in a statement.
Two Australians were injured, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra said in a statement. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd condemned the bombings as a “barbaric act that violates the fundamental principles of human decency.”
A later explosion north of the capital that left one person dead was caused by a faulty car battery, Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo said.
The Indonesian rupiah declined the most in two weeks after the explosions. The rupiah, which dropped 1 percent after the blast, was trading at 10,175 to the dollar at 5:22 p.m. in Jakarta. The central bank said it helped support the rupiah after the attacks.
The currency reached 10,075 yesterday, the strongest since June 15. The benchmark stock index closed 0.6 percent lower.
Authorities in the nation of 248 million people say they have succeeded in weakening Jemaah Islamiyah by using former militants to negotiate with Islamic extremists and convince them to abandon violence.
The al-Qaeda-linked group is blamed for an attack on the Marriott in 2003 that killed 12 people, a bomb explosion outside the Australian Embassy in the Indonesian capital in 2004 that killed at least nine and the 2002 and 2005 attacks on the island of Bali that killed more than 200 people.
The group will “continue to mount attacks on Indonesia and beyond,” Gunaratna, head of the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said in a telephone interview. “Indonesia needs to take the threat more seriously and prevent another attack.”
Hotels have become a soft target for terrorists, he said, pointing to attacks in India’s financial hub, Mumbai, and on luxury hotels in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Since the Marriott blast in 2003, luxury hotels in Jakarta have stepped up security.
The Ritz and Marriott, which are across from each other, stop and search vehicles entering the premises and post guards with machine guns in the lobby. People entering and leaving must pass through metal detectors.
PT Bank Danamon Indonesia’s head office is in the area as are the Chinese and Danish embassies.
To contact the reporters on this story: Berni Moestafa in Jakarta at firstname.lastname@example.org; Achmad Sukarsono in Jakarta at email@example.com.
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Arijit Ghosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Paul Tighe at email@example.com.