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Jarkata car blast kills 14, injures 152
( 2003-08-06 07:09) (China Daily)

A huge car bomb killed 14 people and wounded 152 yesterday as it ripped through a luxury hotel in the heart of Indonesia's capital.

Indonesian police officers try to push journalists away from the site of an explosion at J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta Tuesday. [AP]
The city's governor said a suicide bomber was probably responsible for the attack -- the second major blast to hit Indonesia in less than a year and timed as thousands of workers poured out of their offices for their lunch break.

Flames and thick clouds of smoke billowed from the lobby area of the JW Marriott Hotel hours after the blast. Cars and other vehicles caught fire and staff and guests swiftly evacuated -- many leaving half-eaten meals in the hotel's restaurants.

The blast coincided with high-profile trials of suspected Islamic militants on bomb-related charges -- including that of Abu Bakar Bashir, an influential cleric in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

He is accused of leading the Jemaah Islamiah network blamed for a series of attacks on Western targets including October's Bali bombings that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

Australian tourist Simon Leuning had just arrived in Jakarta from Perth and was relaxing in his room at the hotel when the explosion occurred.

"The window blew in, blew me across the room,'' he said. "I got out of there as fast as I could.''

Stephen Mellor, a foreign resident who was parking his car less than 100 metres from the hotel at the time of the blast, said:  "It was panic. Mad panic.

A bombing victim holds a gauze bandage to his eye as nurses tend to his wounds Tuesday at Jakarta Hospital. [AP]
"The police and paramedics did what they could, but they seemed overwhelmed. People were almost hijacking cars in desperation and piling the injured in them to take to hospital.''

Jakarta detective Andi Chaeruddin said the blast originated in the basement of the hotel in Kuningan on one of the main roads through Jakarta's business district.

Police said a Dutch citizen was among the dead and two Americans, two Singaporeans, an Australian and a New Zealander among those hurt. The official Antara news agency said 111 people were injured, many seriously.

"There is a strong possibility this was a suicide bomber,'' said Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso. Defence Minister Matori Abdul Djalil was more blunt, calling it  "clearly an act of terrorism.''

Washington said last week that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network was planning new suicide hijackings and bombings in the United States and abroad. The US Embassy held its 4th of July independence celebrations at the hotel.

"Intelligence agencies have warned for months now of the possibility of attacks and the bulk of Jemaah Islamiah remains at large,'' said security expert Andrew Tan at Singapore's Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies.

"This shouldn't be a surprise because in the last couple of months there have been indications that more terrorist attacks are entirely plausible in a place like Indonesia.''

The Marriott -- popular with foreign business people -- is close to the diplomatic area of Menteng where dozens of Western embassies and consulates are based.

Menteng, Jakarta's most exclusive suburb, is also home to Indonesian cabinet members, lawmakers, senior army officials and tycoons.

The explosion hit Indonesia's financial markets with stocks falling an initial 5 per cent and the currency also slipping against the dollar. The main stock index ended down 3 per cent, its lowest in more than two months.

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