Bomb rocks Marriott hotel in downtown Jakarta, killing at least 13
Tuesday, August 5th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ A powerful car bomb exploded outside the Marriott hotel in downtown Jakarta on Tuesday, killing 13 people and wounding nearly 149 in what an official said was likely a suicide attack. A Dutch citizen was reportedly among the dead and two Americans were believed hurt.
Shattered glass and puddles of blood covered the ground for two blocks around the hotel, located in the business district near many embassies and a popular place for foreigners to stay.
``People were screaming, panicking,'' said Sodik, a man who goes by one name who was having lunch on the 27th floor of an adjacent building. ``I thought it was an earthquake.''
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing. But since last year's bombings in Bali, which killed 202 people, authorities have warned that more attacks were likely in Indonesia _ possibly by Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian terror group linked to al-Qaida.
The Indonesian Red Cross put the death toll at 13, adding that 149 people were wounded. Dutch citizen Hans Winkelmolen, president of PT Rabobank Duta Indonesia, was among the dead, a company spokeswoman said. The bank is majority-owned by Rabobank of the Netherlands.
A U.S. diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity said two Americans were hurt in the explosion. Ten employees of New Zealand's dairy company Fonterra were among those injured in the blast, a spokesman said in Wellington.
On Thursday, a court in Bali was scheduled to deliver its verdict in the trial of Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, who is accused of planning and carrying out the Oct. 12 attacks in Bali. He is the first of about three dozen suspects to have been tried in the case.
Black smoke billowed from the front of the Marriott, also the site of many diplomatic receptions held by the U.S. Embassy. During the past two years, U.S. officials have held 4th of July celebrations at the hotel, part of the Bethesda, Md.-based chain.
Indonesia's Vice President Hamzah Haz said the attack may have targeted U.S. interests in the country. ``I think it is possible that was what was behind it,'' he said.
Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said officials suspected the explosives were placed in an Indonesian-made four-wheel-drive vehicle, adding that its chassis was being examined.
He said that body parts were found near the vehicle, saying police were investigating whether they were those of bystanders or the suspected bomber.
Defense Minister Matori Abdul Djalil declined to specify who was behind the explosion, but said it was the work of ``terrorists.''
The blast was sure to hurt Indonesia's efforts to persuade tourists and foreign investors to come back to the country following the Bali blasts. Australia, which lost 88 people in the Bali blasts, warned its citizens Tuesday to avoid central Jakarta.
The Jakarta stock exchange closed 3.1 percent lower following news of the blast.
Jakarta governor Sutiyoso, who like many Indonesians uses a single name, said Tuesday bombing was ``very likely'' carried out by a suicide attacker.
An Associated Press photographer on the scene minutes after the blast saw three badly burned bodies lying in the wreckage of a car outside the badly damaged hotel and an adjacent office building called Plaza Mutiara.
Mellanie Solagratia, a spokeswoman for the hotel, said most of the damage appeared to have occurred in the basement and on the second floor. She said the 330-room hotel was 77 percent occupied as of Monday.
Witness Jaganathan Nadeson said he looked out of his window on the 22nd floor after the blast and saw a vehicle engulfed in flames in front of the hotel _ apparently the car bomb, he said.
``I heard a big bang and I tried to get out of the building as quickly as possible,'' said Asroni, a hotel employee, as he picked bits of glass from his uniform. ``The smoke was getting into my lungs.''
The hotel's lobby plate glass windows were shattered, as were some upper-floor windows. The lobby was badly damaged, with chairs and tables strewn about. Several cars smoldered outside.
Inside a ground-floor restaurant of an adjacent building, half-eaten pasta dishes sat on tables covered in broken plates and glass.
Ceiling and wall panels were scattered in the street outside the lobby of the hotel, exposing the bare concrete pillars. The building appeared to be structurally intact.
The adjacent Rajawali building houses the embassies of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. None of the staff were injured, officials said.
``In the Swedish Embassy there was shattered glass, and one of the inner ceilings caved in,'' vice consul Viveca Lofberg said.
Another office worker named Iin said most of the casualties appeared to be security guards who were stationed in front of the Marriott.
``I thought a plane must have hit the building,'' he said.
Jakarta has seen a number of bombings in recent years as Indonesia grapples with a myriad of security problems and political turmoil.
The explosion came four days after President Megawati Sukarnoputri vowed to destroy the terrorist networks responsible for a series of bombings across the world's largest Muslim nation, saying the ``domestic branch of the international terrorism movement is a terrifying threat.''