Twin Suicide Attacks Rock Jakarta Hotels

A foreigner injured in the hotel bombings is brought to a hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 17, 2009.
AP Photo
Last Updated at 11:25 a.m. EDT.

Suicide bombers posing as guests attacked American luxury hotels in Indonesia's capital and set off a pair of blasts Friday that killed at least eight people and wounded more than 50, authorities said.

The bombings, which came two minutes apart, ended a four-year lull in terror attacks in the world's most populous Muslim nation. At least eight Americans were among the wounded.

The blasts at the highrise J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels, located side-by-side in an upscale business district in Jakarta, blew out windows and scattered debris and glass across the street, kicking up a thick plume of smoke. An Associated Press reporter saw bodies being carried away in police trucks.

The attackers evaded hotel security, smuggling explosives into the Marriott and assembling the bombs in a room on the 18th floor, where an undetonated device was found after the explosions. The bombers had stayed at the hotel for two days and set off the blasts in restaurants at both hotels.

"They had been using the room as their 'command post' since July 15, and today they were supposed to check out," police chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri said.

Alex Asmasubrata, who was jogging nearby, said he walked into the Marriott before emergency services arrived and "there were bodies on the ground, one of them had no stomach," he said. "It was terrible."

There were conflicting casualty counts - some reports indicating nine deaths, while others said the total was eight.

An official at the U.S. State Department said no Americans were among the dead, reports CBS News correspondent Charles Wolfson. Three of the injured Americans were transported out of Jakarta by helicopter.

The attack occurred as the Marriott was hosting a regular meeting of top foreign executives at major companies in Indonesia organized by the consultancy firm CastleAsia, said the group, which is headed by an American.

An Australian think tank, the Strategic Policy Institute, had warned the Southeast Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah might launch new attacks just a day before Friday's deadly strike.

Authorities did not immediately name a suspect, but suspicion fell on the Jemaah Islamiyah or its allies. The al Qaeda-linked network is blamed for past attacks in Indonesia, including a 2003 bombing at the Marriott in which 12 people died.

(CBS)
"[Jemaah Islamiyah] has undergone a severe crackdown [by the government]. This is a bit of a surprise," CBS News terrorism analyst Juan Zarate told "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith. But he said that security experts remain cognizant of Jemaah Islamiyah as "a capable, adaptable group."

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the attack was carried out by a "terrorist group" and vowed to arrest the perpetrators. He also suggested a possible link last week's national presidential election.

The Manchester United football team canceled a visit to Indonesia in the wake of the attacks. The team had been scheduled to stay at the Ritz- Carlton on Saturday and Sunday.

Security is tight at five-star hotels in Indonesia. Guests typically walk through metal detectors and vehicles are inspected, but many visitors say searches are often cursory.

"If they (the terrorists) were to separate explosives and metals they could get through the detectors because the wands the hotels use do not detect explosives," said Jakarta-based security consultant Ken Conboy.

U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the bombings, saying the U.S. government "stands ready" as a friend and partner to help its ally in the effort to combat extremism and to recover from these "outrageous attacks."

The European Union condemned the blasts.

The Marriott was hit first, followed by the blast at the Ritz-Carlton.

Security Minister Widodo Adi Sucipto told reporters the explosions happened at 7:45 a.m. and 7:47 a.m. and that "high explosives were used." He said eight people were killed and 50 wounded.

"All of a sudden there was a huge explosion," Lydia Ruddy, who lives and works across the street from the Ritz, recounted to Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez. "As I walked up toward the hotel it was errily calm. There were people starting to come out of the buildings, smoke was pouring out of the windows."

Security video footage shown on a local TV station captured the moment of the explosion in one of the hotels. The brief, grainy images show a man in a cap walking across the lobby toward the restaurant with other hotel guests and then smoke filling the air.

"There was a big explosion followed by a shock wave," said Ahmad Rochadi, a security guard at the Marriott who was checking cars in the basement. "I rushed upstairs and saw smoke billowing from the lobby."

Anti-terrorist forces with automatic weapons rushed to the site, and authorities blocked access to the hotels in a district also home to foreign embassies.

It has been nearly four years since a major terrorist attack in Indonesia - a triple suicide bombing at restaurants at the resort island of Bali that killed 20 people.

The security minister and police said a New Zealander was among those killed, and that 17 other foreigners were among the wounded, including Americans and citizens of Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea and Britain.

The dead New Zealander was identified by his employer as Timothy David Mackay, 62, who worked for cement products manufacturer PT Holcim Indonesia. He was reportedly attending a business meeting at the Marriott.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attacks, but Jemaah Islamiyah is the top suspect. .

In October 2002 two Bali nightclubs were attacked killing 202 people, many of them foreign tourists. Jemaah Islamiyah was accused of responsibility.