Darren Whiteside / Reuters

Blasts and gunfire rock Jakarta, Indonesia's capital

Developing: At least seven dead in series of explosions, attacks that president calls 'terror acts'

At least six explosions rocked downtown Jakarta Thursday midmorning followed by more than two hours of gunbattles, leaving seven people dead, including four attackers, in what the president called "terror acts."

"This act is clearly aimed at disturbing public order and spreading terror among people," Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said on national television. "The state, nation and people should not be afraid of, and lose to, such terror acts."

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which took place in front of the Sarinah shopping mall on Thamrin Street that prompted a security lockdown in central Jakarta and enhanced checks all over the crowded city of 10 million. 

National Police spokesman Maj. Gen. Anton Charliyan said there had been a threat from the Islamic State in Iran and the Levant (ISIL) group "that Indonesia would be in the spotlight." He said police did not know who was responsible for the current attack.

All six blasts occurred about 150 feet apart in the central business district, which houses a United Nations office.

Jakarta police spokesman Col. Muhammad Iqbal said seven people had been killed, and police recovered bodies of four dead attackers. It remained unclear if others remained at large.

A Dutch national, who was working for the United Nations, was also among the dead.

The president said he had ordered the national police chief and the minister for political and security affairs to hunt down and capture the perpetrators and those in their network.

"We express condolence to those who became victims, but we all also condemn the attack that caused restless among the community," said Jokowi who cut short a working visit to the West Java town of Cirebon to return to Jakarta.

It was the first major violence in Indonesia's capital since the 2009 bombings of two hotels that killed seven people and injured more than 50. Before that, a bombing in a nightclub on the resort island of Bali in 2002 killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.

The first gunshots were heard after the midmorning explosion Thursday in front of the Sarinah shopping mall in a central area of the capital where there are many luxury hotels, embassies and offices.

It was not clear who was shooting but police had cordoned off the area, preventing reporters from going near the scene. Police snipers were deployed among hundreds of other security officers.

Witnesses said three suicide bomb explosions took place at a Starbucks cafe in downtown Jakarta.

Tri Seranto, a bank security guard, told The Associated Press that he saw at least five attackers. Three men entered Starbucks and blew themselves up one by one, Seranto said. He said the other two attackers, carrying handguns, entered a police post from where he heard gunfire. He said he later saw one policeman dead and three seriously injured.

Charliyan denied the attackers blew themselves up.

Indonesia has been a victim of several bombing attacks in the past, claimed by Islamic armed groups. 

Last month, anti-terror police arrested nine men and said the group had wanted to "perform a 'concert' to attract international news coverage of their existence here." Police cited a document seized from the group that described the planned attacks as a "concert."

Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, has been on high alert after authorities said they had foiled a plot by Islamic fighters to attack government officials, foreigners and others. About 150,000 police officers and soldiers were deployed during New Year's Eve to guard churches, airports and other public places.

More than 9,000 police were also deployed in Bali, the site of Indonesia's deadliest terror attack, which killed 202 people in 2002.

Charliyan said security is focused on anticipating attacks in vulnerable regions, including Jakarta. 

On Tuesday, the jailed cleric Abu Bakar Bashir appealed to an Indonesia court to have his conviction for funding a terror training camp overturned, arguing that his support for the camp was an act of worship.

The 77-year-old leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah militant network filed a judicial review of his 2011 conviction, when he was sentenced to 15 years in jail for setting up the camp in Aceh province. A higher court later cut the sentence to nine years.

Indonesia has suffered a spate of deadly attacks by the Jemaah Islamiyah network in the past. But strikes in recent years have been smaller and less deadly, and have targeted government authorities, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces.

Al Jazeera with wire services


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