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Jakarta attacks: ISIS is responsible, says police chief

UNDER SIEGE: Police officers near the site of a blast in Jakarta yesterday. Several explosions went off and gunfire broke out in the centre of the Indonesian capital. Seven people were killed and five of them were the attackers themselves. Two of the militants were taken alive, the police said.


    Jan 15, 2016

    Jakarta attacks: ISIS is responsible, says police chief


    INDONESIA blamed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) for an attack by suicide bombers and gunmen in the heart of Jakarta yesterday that brought the radical group's violence to the world's most populous Muslim country for the first time.

    Just seven people were killed despite multiple blasts and a gunfight, and five of them were the attackers themselves, but the brazenness of their siege suggested a new brand of militancy in a country where low-level strikes on police are common.

    It took security forces about three hours to end the attack near a Starbucks cafe and Sarinah's, Jakarta's oldest department store, after a team of at least seven militants traded gunfire with police and blew themselves up.

    An Indonesian and a Canadian were killed in the attack and 20 people, including a Dutchman who works for the United Nations Environment Programme, were wounded.

    Two of the militants were taken alive, the police said.

    "(ISIS) fighters carried out an armed attack this morning targeting foreign nationals and the security forces charged with protecting them in the Indonesian capital," Aamaaq news agency, which is allied to the group, said on its Telegram channel.

    Jakarta's police chief told reporters: "ISIS is behind this attack definitely." He named an Indonesian militant called Bahrun Naim as the man responsible for plotting it.

    The police believe Bahrun Naim is in the Syrian city of Raqqa.

    The drama played out in the streets and on television screens, with at least six explosions and a gunfight in a cinema. But the low death toll pointed to the involvement of local militants whose weapons were rudimentary, experts said.

    "The Starbucks cafe windows are blown out. I see three dead people on the road. There has been a lull in the shooting but someone is on the roof of the building and police are aiming their guns at him," Reuters photographer Darren Whiteside said as the attack unfolded.

    The police responded in force within minutes. Black armoured cars screeched to a halt in front of the Starbucks cafe and sniper teams were deployed around the neighbourhood as helicopters buzzed overhead.

    Jakarta police chief Tito Karnavian said one man entered the Starbucks cafe and blew himself up, wounding several inside.

    As people poured out of the cafe, two waiting gunmen opened fire on them. At the same time, two militants attacked a police traffic post nearby, using what he described as hand grenade-like bombs.

    After the militants had been overcome, a body still lay on the street, a shoe nearby among the debris. The city centre's notoriously jammed roads were largely deserted.

    Indonesia has seen attacks by Muslim militants before but a coordinated assault by a team of suicide bombers and gunmen is unprecedented and has echoes of the sieges seen in Mumbai seven years ago and in Paris last November.

    The last major militant attacks in Jakarta were in July 2009, with bombs at the JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels.

    The country had been on edge for weeks over the threat posed by Muslim militants.

    Counter-terrorism police had rounded up about 20 people with suspected links to ISIS, whose battle lines in Syria and Iraq have included nationals from several Asian countries.

    Said Kumar Ramakrishna, a counter-terrorism analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore: "We know that ISIS has the desire to declare a province in this region.

    "The threat of returning South-east Asian fighters radicalised in the Iraq/Syria region (is) another factor of concern."