Eleven people including six foreign guests are reported to have been killed in twin bombings at two luxury hotels in the Indonesian capital, while at least two more people have been killed in other bombings throughout the city.
Near-simultaneous blasts struck the Marriott Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Jakarta early on Friday. The first bomb was detonated at the Marriott. The second bombing at the Ritz-Carlton took place less than five minutes later.
Dozens of people have been reported to have been wounded in the blasts. The facade of the Ritz was heavily damaged during the explosion.
No group has taken credit for the bombings, but Al Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah and the Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad, a splinter group of Jemaah Islamiyah, are the prime suspects. The targets of the attack – foreigners at posh hotels – and the mode of the attack – near-simultaneous detonations – match the profile of attacks used by the al Qaeda-affiliated groups
The Jakarta bombings are the first such attacks in Indonesia since October 2005, when Bali was rocked by a second suicide attack; 20 people were killed and hundreds were wounded.
In October 2004, the Australian Embassy in Jakarta was hit. Nine people were killed and hundreds more were wounded. Jemaah Islamiyah took responsibility for the bombing.
In August 2003, Jemaah Islamiyah detonated a bomb at the Jakarta Marriott, killing more than a dozen and wounding hundreds.
Jemaah Islamiyah was also behind the deadly attack on the resort in Bali in the fall of 2002 that killed more than 200 people, including 88 Australians.
The attacks resulted in a crackdown by Indonesian security forces. The government formed Special Detachment 88, a counterterrorism force, after the first Bali bombing and detained numerous Jemaah Islamiyah operatives.
Abu Dujana was arrested on June 9, 2007. Dujana was the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah’s military branch and had been the group’s top leader after the arrest and imprisonment of Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader. Azahari Husin, one of the masterminds of the 2002 Bali attack, was killed during a shootout in 2005. Other Jemaah Islamiyah operatives were killed or captured by Special Detachment 88.
Jemaah Islamiyah lowered its profile in Indonesia and many of its operatives are thought to have moved to the Philippines and sheltered with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf. But the terror group has remained active in Indonesia and throughout southeast Asia. Jemaah Islamiyah still maintains a support base and training camps inside Indonesia.
The fight against Jemaah Islamiyah suffered a setback when the Indonesian Supreme Court in 2006 overturned the conviction of Abu Bakar Bashir and other terrorists. More than 60 terrorists were released from jail, including several involved in the Bali bombing.
The government’s execution of Bali bombers Amrozi, Mukhlas, and Imam Samudra exposed the support for Jemaah Islamiyah in the country. Hundreds of followers clashed with police after the bodies of the Bali bombers were returned to their families. Rioters shouted “Jihad” as they paraded the bodies through the streets. Hundreds of police were driven from the bombers’ home towns. A song recorded by Samudra became one of the most popular ringtones in Indonesia.
Indonesian Islamists made veiled threats after the execution of three Bali bombers. “At the moment our jihad is to transmit the words of the Koran,” said Abdul Rochim, the son of Abu Bakar Bashir. “But if the infidels attack us, we are ready to fight.”
The rise of Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad
After the crackdown on Jemaah Islamiyah, a new terror group was created by a Jemaah Islamiyah senior operative. Noordin Mohammad Top, a Malaysian national and senior commander, formed the Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad in the aftermath of the 2005 Bali bombing.
“In his own account related to the Bali bombings on October 1, 2005, Noordin M Top said that he was the leader of the Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad for the Malay island group, which includes Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines and parts of several other Asian countries,” General Sutanto, the chief of Indonesian police said in 2006.
Top told the Bali bombers that Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad was formed after a dispute over Jemaah Islamiyah’s tactic of launching attacks against “soft targets”, which often resulted in high civilian casualties, the BBC reported in January 2006.
But Top may have created the group to focus attacks on Western targets and to conduct military operations, according to Jemaah Islamiyah expert Zachary Abuza.
Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad “represents the JI faction that has a decidedly anti-Western, pro-bombing agenda, but it is not clear the degree to which it is still within the formal JI structure,” Abuza said in October 2006.
Presentation on Jemaah Islamiyah’s leadership and history, by The Long War Journal:
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