Bomb blast in Jakarta bus station


JAKARTA, 26 May 2017: Indonesia’s elite anti-terror squad was Thursday investigating a suicide bombing attack near a busy Jakarta bus station that killed three policemen, the latest assault in the Muslim-majority country as it faces a surge in militant plots.

President Joko Widodo appealed for calm after two suicide attackers unleashed carnage outside the terminal late Wednesday, sending huge clouds of black smoke into the sky and panicked people fleeing.

Three policemen were killed, while six other officers and five civilians were injured in an attack that left body parts and shattered glass strewn across the road. The bombers also died.

Authorities in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country have not indicated which group they believe is behind the bus station bombing, but suspicion will fall on militant networks in the country who support the Islamic State (IS) group.

It was the deadliest attack in Indonesia since January 2016, when a suicide bombing and gun assault claimed by IS in downtown Jakarta left four attackers and four civilians dead.

In a televised address Thursday, Widodo said he had ordered a thorough probe and was “urging all citizens across the nation to stay calm and remain united”.

“I convey my deepest condolences to the victims and their families — especially the police officers who passed away while performing their duty,” he added.

The main investigation was handed over early Thursday to the police’s elite anti-terror squad Densus 88, which has played a leading role in tracking down and killing some of Indonesia’s most wanted militants.

Police believe they were specifically targeted in the bombing as they prepared to provide security for a parade near the Kampung Melayu terminal.

Security forces have been the main target in recent years of Indonesian militants, who have largely turned their attention away from Westerners.

National police spokesman Setyo Wasisto would not be drawn on which group may have been behind the bombing, but said terror cells “might have been inspired to carry out an attack” by recent assaults in Britain and the Philippines.

Twenty-two people, including children, were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a pop concert in Manchester on Monday. In the Philippines, troops are locked in intense battles with Islamist militants who rampaged through the mainly Muslim city of Marawi.

Wasisto described how the first Jakarta bomb was detonated at 0900 (1400 GMT) in an area where police officers were on duty. Five minutes later the second bomber struck about 10 metres (32 feet) away.

Local media said the event that the officers were preparing to guard was a torch parade traditionally held before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins this weekend.

Wasisto said the bombs were believed to be made out of pressure cookers.

A similar device was used in an attack in the city of Bandung in February carried out by a militant from an IS-supporting local group called Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which has been blamed for a string of recent assaults.

The Kampung Melayu terminal is a local hub served by minibuses and buses.

Indonesia has long struggled with Islamic militancy and has suffered a series of attacks in the past 15 years, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

A sustained crackdown weakened the most dangerous networks but the emergence of IS has proved a potent new rallying cry for radicals, hundreds of whom flocked abroad to fight with the jihadists.

The country has been hit by a series of low-level attacks since the January 2016 assault in Jakarta, usually claimed by IS-supporting groups, but most have caused little damage.

© Agence France-Presse