Bomb blasts ripped through luxury hotels in the heart of Indonesia’s capital yesterday, killing eight people and wounding dozens in attacks the president said badly hurt confidence in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
The attackers targeted the JW Marriott hotel, scene of a car bomb in 2003, and the Ritz-Carlton, both popular with visiting international businessmen and thought to boast some of the tightest security in Jakarta.
A visibly upset Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, re-elected this month on the back of improved security and a healthier economy, told a news conference the bombings were the act of a terrorist group bent on damaging the country.
“I am sure most of us are deeply concerned, feel very sorry and are crying silently, like the way I am feeling,” he said, adding the perpetrators were “laughing and cheering with anger and hatred.”
“They do not have a sense of humanity and do not care about the destruction of our country, because this terror act will have a wide impact on our economy, our business climate, our tourism, our image in the world and many others,” he said.
Police originally said nine people had been killed in the blasts, but later reduced the number to eight. They also said a blast on a toll road in the north of the capital originally attributed to a car bomb was actually a vehicle short circuit.
How the bombers may have bypassed some of the toughest security in Indonesia remains unclear, but police said a third device had been found and defused in a laptop bag on the 18th floor of the Marriott, prompting speculation they could have gained entry by checking in as paying guests. Indonesia’s TVOne showed closed-circuit television footage of a man they said was the Ritz-Carlton’s suspected suicide bomber. He was wearing a baseball cap and pulling a wheelie-bag through the lobby.
Indonesian financial markets fell after the blasts, with the rupiah down 1 percent before state banks stepped in with support. It closed at 10,200. Indonesian stocks fell as much as 2.7 percent before paring loses and closing down 0.6 percent.
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.
Suspicion was likely to fall on the Jemaah Islamiah militant group, blamed for the previous Marriott attack as well as bombings on the island of Bali in 2002 that killed 202 people.
The group, which wants to create an Islamic state across parts of Southeast Asia, was blamed for a string of attacks until 2005, but many militants have since been arrested.
“The attack is particularly severe for investor confidence because ... it has affected the hotels that are seen to be among the most secure in Jakarta and also either killed or wounded numerous prominent expatriate business people,” said Kevin O’Rourke, a political risk analyst in Jakarta.
Tim Mackay, president director of cement maker PT Holcim Indonesia, was among those killed, the company said.
According to police, the casualties included citizens of Indonesia, the US, Australia, South Korea, the Netherlands, Italy, the UK, Canada, Norway, Japan and India.
The Manchester United soccer team 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.