Jakarta alert for fresh terror attacks

JAKARTA BOMBING

Security stepped up, but authorities not yet ready to introduce detention without trial for terrorism suspects.

Amid warnings of more terrorist attacks, the Indonesian government yesterday announced moves to beef up security following Tuesday’s deadly bombing at the JW Marriott Hotel.

But it stopped short of introducing powers to detain terrorist suspects without trial, which terrorism experts feel are needed to deal decisively with the continuing threat.

Well-placed sources told The Straits Times that the police and state intelligence agency BIN were pushing for internal security laws similar to those in Singapore and Malaysia, to detain suspects without trial.

Security czar Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had said on Tuesday that tough measures might be called for, even at the expense of some human rights concerns.

But the measures announced yesterday outlined only stepped-up searches at private and public buildings and a thorough review of security procedures, with minimum standards set.

As for detention without trial, a government official said yesterday: ‘We are taking a wait-and-see approach. This is still a very sensitive matter for many Indonesians.’

There was confusion over the blast toll after the Indonesian Red Cross retracted an earlier claim that 14 people had died, and Jakarta police putting the total at ‘up to 10’.

The number of injured remained at 150.

There were fresh warnings of more terror attacks, from Indonesian authorities as well as foreign governments.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said that his government had acquired intelligence in the hours after the bombing that more attacks in Indonesia might be imminent.

‘We have particular concerns at the moment about central Jakarta, and also other places in Indonesia,’ he said.

‘There could be a further terrorist attack. The 17th of August is Indonesia’s National Day and that is a day when we think it’s possible there could be a terrorist attack in the central Jakarta area.’

He also indicated that further attacks could occur to coincide with a verdict expected today in the case of key Bali bombing suspect Amrozi Nurhasyim and the treason trial of Abu Bakar Bashir, the Jemaah Islamiah spiritual leader.

Jakarta was tense yesterday amid reports of several bomb threats in the capital.

Guards were seen checking cars entering some building compounds and there were several police roadblocks and vehicle searches last night.

At the blast scene, debris still littered the compound of the Marriott and two adjacent buildings. Twisted metal lay in front of the hotel. The shells of two burned-out cars had yet to be removed.

Hundreds of police officers working with forensic experts cordoned off the area as they combed the debris for more clues on the explosion.

Investigators noted startling similarities with last October’s Bali attack, lending credence to JI’s claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s bombing.

The materials used were the same – a cocktail including large amounts of TNT and potassium chlorate, a fertiliser compound.

Indonesian police also revealed yesterday that they had been anticipating an attack in the capital after seizing documents last month which cited the area around the Marriott as a potential target.

Jakarta police spokesman Prasetyo said: ‘There was a warning that there were some targets and we have been anticipating an attack.’

Composite sketches of two suspects were released.

National police chief Da’i Bachtiar said: ‘We have sketched a face of those who bought the car used for the explosion two weeks ago and a head found near the car bomb, supposedly coming from inside the car.’

The progress of the police investigation – aided by Australia, Interpol, Malaysia and Singapore – clearly suggested that Jakarta was bent on finding the perpetrators of the Marriott bombing.

Mr Susilo said yesterday that the blast made clear the need to redouble efforts to combat militants, which were no home-grown outfit.

‘I think the world should know that what we are facing is international terrorist organisations, not domestic terrorist cells,’ he said. ‘Better and closer international cooperation is strongly needed.’

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