Deadly blasts hit Indonesia hotels

(AL JAZEERA)   At least nine people have been killed and scores of others injured in near simultaneous bomb blasts at two luxury hotels in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

The blast at the Ritz-Carlton went off as people were having breakfast in a crowded restaurant

The blast at the Ritz-Carlton went off as people were having breakfast in a crowded restaurant

The blasts tore through the Ritz-Carlton and the nearby JW Marriott hotels within minutes of each other on Friday morning, as many guests were having breakfast.

Indonesia’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has called the bombings a terrorist act and vowed that the attackers would be hunted down and punished.

“Those who carried out this attack and those who planned it will be arrested and tried according to the law,” he said in a televised address to the nation.

Widodo Adi Sucipto, Indonesia’s security minister, confirmed that the two explosions were caused by “high explosive bombs”, while police said initial investigations pointed to the blasts having been caused by suicide bombers.

A New Zealander was among those killed while 13 other foreigners were among at least 50 people injured, Sucipto told reporters at the scene of the blasts.

The first explosion went off at the Marriott at around 8am local time and the second hit the Ritz-Carlton about 1km away just a few minutes later.

Earlier reports had said a third explosion had occurred on a toll motorway in the north of Jakarta, but local police said that incident was a vehicle fire and was not related to the hotel bombings.

Arief Wahyunadi, the police operational chief, said the two hotel bombs had detonated in the Ritz-Carlton’s Air Langga restaurant and in the basement of the Marriott.

The blast had caused extensive damage to the lower levels of both hotels, with dozens of windows blown out on higher floors by the force of the explosion.

Witnesses at both hotels reported the buildings had shaken when the bombs hit, sending hundreds of panicked guests and staff running onto the street outside.

Police have since evacuated people from the area surrounding the two hotels located in the heart of the capital’s business district, our correspondent said.

British football team Manchester United who had been due to play an exhibition game in Jakarta at the weekend have cancelled their visit to the city.

The team were expected to stay at the Ritz-Carlton on Saturday and Sunday night, the Indonesian Football association said.

No claim of responsibility

No one has claimed responsibility for Friday’s blasts, which are the first attacks on high-profile targets in the country in several years and come just a week after Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was returned to power in presidential elections that passed of peacefully.

No one has claimed responsibility for Friday’s blasts [Reuters]

The blasts mark the second attack on the Jakarta JW Marriott, which was hit by a suicide bombing in 2003 that left 12 dead and injured more than 150.

That bombing and several other high profile attacks before that had been claimed by or blamed on the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) group, and many suspected members have since been imprisoned.

An Australian security report released on Thursday warned, however, that Jemaah Islamiyah could be poised to strike again.

The report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said leadership tensions in the group and recent prison releases of several JI members raised the possibility that splinter groups might now seek to re-energise the movement through violent attacks.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent Step Vaessen said she had contacted a JI member who denied the group was responsible for the attack.

However, she added that while there are believed to be more than 1,000 active JI members in Indonesia, in recent years JI had become a highly fractured organisation.

Carl Ungerer, one of the analysts who wrote the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s study, said differing factions of JI vary widely in their outlook and tactics.

“There is a split between traditionalists who want to consolidate current efforts and other more hardline factions – who believe a campaign of political violence is both necessary and required,” he told Al Jazeera.

In the wake of Friday’s bombings Australia’s government issued a fresh travel warning for Indonesia, telling citizens to “reconsider your need to travel to Indonesia, including Bali, at this time due to the very high threat of terrorist attack”

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