13 killed in Jakarta hotel car bombing

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The Independent Online

A suicide car bomb attack outside a hotel in the Indonesian capital Jakarta today killed at least 13 people and injured almost 150.

Shattered glass and puddles of blood covered a wide area around the Marriott Hotel, a popular place for visiting foreigners and diplomats in a business district near many overseas embassies.

"People were screaming, panicking," said Sodik, a witness who was having lunch on the 27th floor of an adjacent building. "I thought it was an earthquake."

Indonesian officials said that the bomb bore similarities to last year's nightclub bombing in Bali, which killed 202 people.

Black smoke billowed from the front of the hotel, a regular venue for receptions held by the US Embassy. During the past two years, American officials have held 4th of July celebrations at the hotel.

An Associated Press photographer on the scene minutes after the blast saw three badly burned bodies lying in the wreckage of a car outside the badly damaged hotel and the adjacent Plaza Mutiara office building.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing. But since last year's blasts in Bali, authorities have warned that more attacks were likely in Indonesia - possibly by Jemaah Islamiyah, the south-east Asian terror group linked to al-Qa'ida.

It's alleged leader Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir is facing trial for treason over a series of bombings in 2000. About three dozen alleged Jemaah Islamiyah members are also accused in the Bali blasts and could be executed if convicted.

Today's bomb rocked the capital just two days before the first verdict is expected in a series of trials in Bali.

Hans Winkelmolen, president of PT Rabobank Duta Indonesia, a Dutch national, was among the dead, said a company spokeswoman. The bank is majority-owned by Rabobank of the Netherlands.

Several hospitals said they had admitted a total of 103 people with various injuries.

Officials suspected that the explosives had been placed in an Indonesian-made Kijang van, adding that its chasis was being examined.

Body parts were found near the wrecked vehicle and police were investigating whether they were those of bystanders or the suspected bomber.

Jakarta governor Sutiyoso, who like many Indonesians uses a single name, said it was "very likely" carried out by a suicide attacker.

The blast at the hotel is certain to hit Indonesia's efforts to attract back tourists and foreign investors following the Bali carnage.

Mellanie Solagratia, a spokeswoman for the hotel, said most of the damage appeared to have occurred in the basement and on the second floor. She said the 330-room hotel was 77 per cent full.

Witness Jaganathan Nadeson said he looked out of his window on the 22nd floor after the blast and saw a vehicle engulfed in flames in front of the hotel - apparently the car bomb, he said.

"I heard a big bang and I tried to get out of the building as quickly as possible," said Asroni, a hotel employee, as he picked bits of glass from his uniform. "The smoke was getting into my lungs."

The hotel's lobby plate glass windows were shattered, as were some upper-floor windows. The lobby was badly damaged, with chairs and tables strewn about. Several cars smoldered outside.

Inside a ground-floor restaurant of an adjacent building, half-eaten pasta dishes sat on tables covered in broken plates and glass.

Ceiling and wall panels were scattered in the street outside the lobby of the hotel, exposing the bare concrete pillars. The building appeared to be structurally intact.

The adjacent Rajawali building houses the embassies of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. None of the staff were injured, officials said.

The explosion came four days after President Megawati Sukarnoputri vowed to destroy the terrorist networks responsible for a series of bombings across the world's largest Muslim nation, saying the "domestic branch of the international terrorism movement is a terrifying threat."

In a state-of-the-nation address, she vowed to "dismantle the terrorist network to its roots."

On Thursday, a court in Bali is due to deliver its verdict in the trial of Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, who is accused of planning and carrying out the attacks in Bali with other alleged members of Jemaah Islamiyah.

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