Indonesia on alert as police probe attacks
Army trucks thundered through Indonesia's capital Friday as authorities boosted security at possible terror targets and probed the suspected Islamic State cell blamed for Jakarta's deadly militant attacks. Four of the five men killed in suicide and gun assaults Thursday had been identified and a subsequent search of one of their homes found IS-related evidence, including the group's flag, National police spokesman Anton Charliyan said.
The rapid-fire series of bombings and a shootout between gunmen and police erupted in a busy part of the capital, lined with malls and foreign missions, shocking moderate-Muslim Indonesians and leaving two civilians and five attackers dead. Authorities in the world's most populous Muslim country have blamed a network of Islamic State fighters from Southeast Asia that was forged in the radical jihadist group's war in Syria and Iraq.
"An alert has been imposed throughout Indonesia," said Charliyan. "National police are on their highest alert, especially in areas considered targets of terror, like police stations, government offices and embassies, with army backup." He did not elaborate on the army's role but reporters saw a convoy of a half-dozen military trucks filled with heavily armed troops in central Jakarta. Stepped-up police security was also seen at some foreign embassies and officers in Jakarta and on the resort island of Bali patrolled in riot gear and with assault rifles.
Indonesia's worst terror incident in seven years killed five attackers, a Canadian and an Indonesian man, according to police. Charliyan said the number of injured was revised upward from 20 to 24 – three foreigners, six police officers and the rest Indonesian civilians. The attacks spilled out in dramatic fashion on a bustling street at mid-morning, transfixing Indonesia's hyperactive social-media world, as images and videos of the carnage went viral.
Police have singled out Indonesian extremist Bahrum Naim as behind the assault. Naim, believed to be in Syria, is said to be a founding member of Katibah Nusantara, the grouping of Southeast Asian fighters there.
Terror analysts warn that the group, believed to consist mostly of militants from Indonesia, but also Malaysia and elsewhere in the region, has threatened for more than a year to bring jihad home. Indonesian police have explicitly likened the attack to the jihadist violence in November in Paris that left 130 people dead and presented sobering proof to a horrified world of the reach and fanatical determination of IS adherents. Late on Thursday IS claimed responsibility for the Jakarta attack. Fears have grown in Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia with Muslim populations that a wave of extremist violence born in Syria could flow back to home shores.
The attackers included three suicide bombers who initially targeted a Starbucks near a major shopping mall. Men armed with pistols then took two foreigners hostage – an Algerian and a man that Indonesian authorities said was from Canada. The Algerian escaped with bullet wounds, police said, but the second man was shot dead. Two men on a motorbike also destroyed a police post in a suicide bomb attack that left four officers severely injured. Starbucks has closed all outlets in Jakarta until further notice.
Indonesia suffered several large bomb attacks by Islamic radicals between 2000 and 2009, but a subsequent security crackdown weakened the most dangerous networks and there had been no major attacks since 2009. President Joko Widodo has urged calm and there seemed little evidence of public jitters, with Jakarta back to its bustling self Friday, the Muslim holy day.
"I am not afraid of terrorists because life is in Allah's hands and today is Friday so, God willing, nothing bad will happen," said Toto Suhadi, 52, a gardener watering plants near the attack site.
Large floral tributes to victims marked the scene Friday, while corrugated-iron cordons erected at the Starbucks and the shattered police post bore scrawled denunciations of jihadism. "Stupid terrorists! Where did you get the idea that you can go to heaven by killing the innocents and then commit suicide, which is banned in Islam?" said one message.
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