Tue, Jul 15, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Big bomb damages parliament building in heart of Jakarta


A bomb jolted Indonesia's parliament yesterday, police said, causing only minor damage. The blast came days after police captured a group of Islamic militants and seized a huge quantity of explosives.

The explosion, in the basement of a building that is the symbolic heart of Indonesia's fledgling democracy, was the latest blow to a country grappling with Muslim militant groups and ethnic rebellions.

Parliament is in recess and police said no one was injured.

"Yes it was a bomb. It was quite strong. I can't explain at the moment what type it was," Jakarta police chief Makbul Padmanegara told reporters at the sprawling parliament complex in central Jakarta.

The force of the blast blew concrete -- and nails -- across a wide area.

Police said the device was placed near an air-conditioning unit at the back of a function venue used for catering but close to the main parliamentary auditorium, which was empty at the time.

Officials said the blast went off at 8:30am.

The attack follows a police announcement on Friday that they had foiled plans by Islamic radicals to attack churches and shops in Jakarta and had arrested nine suspected militants from the Southeast Asian Muslim network Jemaah Islamiah.

They also seized TNT and chemicals with an explosive power 10 times more than the bomb attacks on Bali island. Police said at the weekend they were hunting several more suspects.

Security analysts said it was too soon to connect the latest attack with Jemaah Islamiah, a group linked to al-Qaeda. Jemaah, established to form an Islamic state in Muslim areas of Southeast Asia, is blamed for the Bali bombings that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

"You could argue there is a link but to be honest it could equally be 101 other things. It could be someone angry with some piece of legislation," said one Western security risk analyst.

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