Coordinated Terror Attack Kills 6 in Central Jakarta
by VOA News January 14, 2016
Militants set off a series of explosions in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, Thursday, according to officials and witnesses, triggering a series of heavy gun battles with police and leaving at least six people dead.
The violence began mid-morning in central Jakarta, in a neighborhood with an upscale shopping center, luxury hotels, embassies, and other office buildings. In total, six explosions were reported.
At least one of the blasts appeared to target a Starbucks coffee shop frequented by foreigners. A subsequent gun battle was said to have erupted after police stormed the cafe.
VOA Indonesian Service reporter Frans Demon, who is in Jakarta, said the location's popularity with tourists and other foreigners makes it a very symbolic target.
'This is a very popular shopping area with restaurants and office buildings. About 50 meters from there is the United Nations office. The U.S. Embassy is almost around 400 or 500 meters from there, not far from the presidential palace, actually. So this is a really centrally located place,' Demon said.
Witnesses said some of the explosions were caused by suicide bombers, though police officials have denied this, saying instead the attackers threw grenades as they drove by on motorcycles.
It is not clear who is responsible for the blasts, or whether they have been apprehended or killed. Local media reported that up to 14 militants were involved.
Suspicions immediately fell on Islamic State, which in recent weeks has threatened to carry out a coordinated bomb attack in the capital.
'Around Christmas and New Year's there was a threat by this group that they will do what they call a 'concert' in Jakarta, meaning they will set off bomb explosions in several places at the same time,' Demon said. 'It didn't happen at Christmas or New Year's, but it happened now.'
So far, officials have not said IS was responsible for the attack.
President Joko Widodo, speaking to a local television station, condemned the 'acts of terror,' stressing authorities are working to contain the situation.
'Our nation and our people should not be afraid. We will not be defeated by these acts of terror. I hope the public stays calm,' said the president, who is on a trip to the island of Java.
Though the situation had calmed somewhat after midday, witnesses described a still tense environment, and a heavy police presence prevented journalists from accessing the affected areas.
A United Nations building in the area is said to be on lockdown.
In a series of tweets, Jeremy Douglas, a regional representative for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, reported at least six explosions, including an apparent suicide bomber and a 'serious exchange of gunfire in the street.'
Following the initial blasts, local media reported that several other blasts were heard throughout the city, including some in locations housing foreign embassies. Those reports could not be immediately confirmed.
Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim majority nation, has been the target of several terrorist attacks, most notably the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.
The last attack against foreigners was a twin hotel bombing in Jakarta in 2009.
Jakarta has long been warning about the threat of recruitment by Islamic State and other extremist groups. Hundreds of Indonesians are believed to have left to fight with Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
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