By Francis Chan
JAKARTA, RADICALISM STUDIES – The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for yesterday’s shocking attack by local militants that left seven people dead and more than 20 others injured in downtown Jakarta.
The terror group, in a statement issued via its Telegram channel, said its fighters had carried out “an armed attack targeting foreign nationals and the security forces in the Indonesian capital”.
Jakarta police chief Tito Karnavian yesterday warned that ISIS seemed to have changed its strategy. He added that a nationwide manhunt for individuals belonging to the same network as yesterday’s perpetrators was under way.
“Previously, they operated in Syria and Iraq, then their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ordered (them) to operate overseas – France, Europe, North Africa, Turkey, and now South-east Asia,” said the former commander of the elite counter-terrorism unit, Detachment 88.
President Joko Widodo has vowed to take out the militant masterminds of the attack, which was played out on the streets of the popular Thamrin boulevard, and urged his countrymen not to surrender to such acts of terror.
Singapore stands in solidarity with the people of Indonesia. I am confident that the Indonesian government will be able to deal with the situation decisively. Singapore gives its full support to the Indonesian government’s efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“Our nation and our people should not be afraid, we will not be defeated by these acts of terror, I hope the public will remain calm,” he said.
“We all are grieving for the fallen victims of this incident, but we also condemn the act that has disturbed the security and peace and spread terror among our people.”
Mr Joko was addressing the country just hours after five militants had laid siege to a Starbucks cafe located at a busy junction in central Jakarta, killing two bystanders, including a Canadian man, and injuring at least 24 others, among them five police officers.
Four of the five attackers blew themselves up in what appeared to be a coordinated suicide bomb attack just before lunch hour. The fifth attacker was gunned down by police at close range.
The incident, which unfolded in the heart of Indonesia’s capital where the popular Sarinah mall is located, is the first terror attack on Indonesian soil since the 2009 twin bombings at the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in the city that left seven dead and 50 injured, including a number of foreigners.
This is also the first major terror incident since Mr Joko took office, and comes after capitals across South-east Asia moved into high alert at the end of last year following a similar attack in Paris that was also traced back to ISIS.
Five unexploded improvised explosive devices (IEDs), or homemade bombs, were found in a bag at the carpark outside Starbucks.
“So we think… their plan was to attack people and follow it up with a larger explosion when more people gathered. But thank God it didn’t happen,” said national police spokesman Anton Charliyan.
Indonesia has been the target of several terror threats in recent months, of late from the East Indonesian Mujahidin extremist group led by Santoso, the country’s most wanted terrorist.
Terrorism analysts such as Mr Adhe Bhakti noted that recent arrests of militants in Indonesia revealed they were linked to ISIS and also learning to make IEDs.
Francis Chan, Indonesia Bureau Chief In Jakarta