Bomb set off at Indonesian Parliament

No one hurt in blast; Jemaah Islamiah suspected to be behind attack; fears raised of more strikes around the country.

Terrorists set off a bomb at the national Parliament early yesterday, striking at the symbolic heart of Indonesia’s fledgling democracy.

Intelligence sources said that the blast, which caused some damage but no injuries, was most likely the work of either Islamic radicals or separatists from Aceh.

Given the timing of the attack, which happened just days after police captured several militants from the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) group and seized a huge cache of weapons, chemicals and explosives, suspicion fell on the terrorist network.

A senior official of the state intelligence agency BIN told The Straits Times: ‘JI is top on the list of suspects because we are picking up from the ground a great deal of resentment to the arrests of their leaders.

‘We see it as a revenge attack and a warning that it still has cadres and sympathisers who can carry out bombings.’

The explosions follow the recent arrest of nine JI members, several of whom were planning to assassinate Indonesian politicians, including President Megawati Sukarnoputri, and carry out bombings against churches and shopping malls in the capital.

Yesterday at 6.30am, two successive explosions went off in the basement of the Nusantara V, one of several office buildings located in the sprawling parliamentary complex.

Police said the device was placed near an air-conditioning unit at the back of a function venue, but close to the main parliamentary auditorium, which was empty at the time.

Jakarta police chief Makbul Padmanegara told reporters at the scene: ‘Yes it was a bomb. It was quite strong. I can’t explain at the moment what type it was.’

The force of the blast shattered glass panels and blew concrete and nails, some of them as large as 15cm, over a 10m radius. Police also found a small crater in the ground.

But with Parliament in recess and little activity in the complex as it was still early, no one was injured.

The attack came on the same day that a top JI terrorist, Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, escaped from a maximum-security prison in the Philippines. This will raise fears of more attacks in the Indonesian capital and around the country.

National police chief Da’i Bachtiar told reporters over the weekend that JI terrorist cells were continually on the move in Jakarta, Semarang and other cities in Central Java.

‘This is an indication that they are bringing explosives with them,’ media reports yesterday quoted him as saying.

Documents and information uncovered from those arrested in recent months have indicated that militants were planning a wave of attacks across Indonesia.

Well-placed sources said that while police have captured several of the key figures in JI, it has not managed to cripple an outfit that still had several members operating in the country with the covert backing of Al-Qaeda.

Sources in BIN said that several of these terrorists were ‘mid-level operatives moving up to leadership positions in the organisation’.

They were keen to inflict damage and casualties fast to earn their spurs in the battlefield.

Motivated and fanatical, JI leaders were recruiting individuals to carry out these attacks for just 300,000 rupiah (S$66).

An intelligence official said: ‘JI remains an imminent threat because of their international links and sympathisers they can draw on in Indonesia.’

WE SEE IT AS A REVENGE ATTACK AND A WARNING THAT IT STILL HAS CADRES … WHO CAN CARRY OUT BOMBINGS.’
– A senior official of state intelligence agency BIN, on the JI group

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