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ASIA: Terror stalks Indonesia as hotel bombs kill at least 8

Fri Jul 17 20:48:27 EST 2009

JAKARTA, July 17 AFP/AP/AAP - High-explosive bombs tore through two luxury hotels in Jakarta on Friday, killing at least eight people including foreigners as terrorism returned to the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Australian trade official Craig Senger and Perth businessman Nathan Verity were believed to be among the victims of the deadly bomb blasts.

Geoff Lazarus told AAP Mr Senger, his nephew, was almost certainly among the dead.

Nathan Verity was a human resources and recruitment manager based in Indonesia.

Jim Truscott, a personal friend, said Mr Verity lived in Perth with his wife Vanessa and five-year-old son but ran his business out of Jakarta.

A New Zealander among the victims was identified by his employer as Timothy David Mackay, 62, who worked for cement products manufacturer PT Holcim Indonesia. He was reportedly attending a business meeting at the Marriott Hotel when the explosions occurred.

Officials said at least 41 other people were injured when two breakfast-time blasts shook the Indonesian capital's Ritz-Carlton hotel and the nearby JW Marriott, leaving terrified people bloodied from flying glass and debris.

The suspected suicide bomber at the Marriott hotel had disguised himself as a guest of the killing at least seven people, senior police said on Friday.

Video from a security camera at Jakarta's Ritz-Carlton hotel shows a man wearing a backpack on his chest and carrying a suitcase entering the restaurant moments before a bomb exploded.

The closed-circuit television footage, aired on local TV One station, shows the man wearing a suit and baseball cap walking awkwardly into the restaurant before the blast.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, confronting Indonesia's bloodiest attacks since 2005 barely a fortnight after he won re-election, denounced the attacks as an "act of terrorism".

"This undermines the security situation in the country," a grim-looking Yudhoyono, whose crackdown on the extremist Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) appeared to have quelled the terrorism threat, said at a televised press conference.

He said the attackers "have no humanity and they don't care about the damage done to our country with this act of terrorism, which will have wide effects on our economy, trade, tourism and image in the eyes of the world".

Manchester United were due to stay at the Ritz-Carlton next week as part of an Asian tour but they cancelled the trip, denying a sell-out crowd of 100,000 the chance to see the English football giants play an Indonesia XI on Monday.

The Marriott was hit in 2003 by a blast that killed 12 people, and Friday's carnage bore the hallmark of past attacks blamed on the al-Qaeda-linked JI both in Jakarta and the tourism hotspot of Bali.

"These were high-explosive bombs," Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Widodo Adi Sucipto told reporters at the scene, where the broad streets were littered with glass and smears of blood.

National police spokesman Nanan Soekarna confirmed at least eight people were killed and more than 40 were injured, including 14 foreigners, when the blasts struck around 8am (1100 AEST).

"I was walking outside and I saw three injured people taken to the ambulance," shop assistant Syarif, 32, said.

"They were all foreigners, their faces and bodies all covered in blood. The skin near the eye of one of them was peeling off," he said.

Despite security measures in place at Jakarta's top hotels, including vehicle searches and metal detectors, police said one blast hit the basement of the Marriott and a second struck the restaurant of the Ritz-Carlton.

An unexploded bomb was later found and defused by police in a room of the Marriott, presidential adviser Djali Yusuf said.

At least two Australians, a South Korean man and a Japanese national were listed among the foreigners who were injured.

"Any terrorist attack is an act of cowardice. It is an act of murder," Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said. "It is a barbaric act that violates the fundamental principles of human decency."

Condemnation also poured in from Indonesia's neighbours in Southeast Asia, where JI is accused of a spread of attacks in its bloodthirsty ambition to create a pan-Islamic state.

The European Union condemned the attack and expressed solidarity with the Indonesian government.

"The presidency of the European Union condemns today's bomb attacks in Jakarta that have killed and injured so many innocent people," said a statement from Sweden, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

"The European Union conveys its deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims of these brutal acts.

In Paris, the French government said it condemned the double attack "in the strongest terms" and offered the victims families and the Indonesian government its support and solidarity.

"France stands by the side of Indonesia, a major partner for our country in Asia, in its courageous fight against terrorism," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "We condemn these senseless acts of violence and stand ready to provide assistance if the Indonesian government requests us to do so."

The State Department was working "to help American citizens injured in the blasts" in the Indonesian capital, Clinton said in a statement issued from Prague as her plane stopped for refuelling en route to India.

The hotel blasts were the first major attacks in Indonesia since a series of suicide bombings on Bali in 2005 which killed 20 and which were blamed on JI.

The group was accused in 2002 for attacks on bars and nightclubs packed with Western tourists in Bali that killed more than 200. It was also blamed for an attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta in 2004 which left 10 dead.

The Indonesian authorities have arrested many of JI's top leadership and key leader Hambali is being detained at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. But other key leaders remain at large.

Three JI members were executed in November last year for their role in the 2002 bombings in Bali, and analysts warned at the time there could be reprisal attacks.