JAKARTA: Suicide attackers struck the Indonesian capital on Thursday, with a series of explosions and gunfire that tore through a Starbucks cafe and shook an embassy district in the Muslim-majority nation.
At least seven people were known to have died—including two who police said blew themselves up in the area that is also overlooked by United Nations offices, in what the country’s president dubbed “acts of terror.”
An unknown number of gunmen were involved in the blasts, including at a police post that left four mangled bodies lying in the road.
“Five terrorists are dead,” Security Minister Luhut Panjaitan said. He added that one Indonesian and one Dutch citizen had died, but the Dutch Embassy said only that one of its citizens was wounded and being treated in hospital.
While no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, they have revived fears that home-grown extremists bloodied on the battlefields of the Middle East with the Islamic State group could have brought their jihad home.
Indonesia suffered several major bomb attacks by Islamic radicals between 2000 and 2009, including the 2002 strike on the resort island of Bali that killed 202 people.
A security crackdown weakened the most dangerous networks, leading to a long lull in large-scale strikes.
But the European-based Soufan Group says of the 500-700 Indonesians who traveled abroad to join the self-proclaimed caliphate of the IS, scores have since returned.
“We know that ISIS has the desire to declare a province in this region,” said Kumar Ramakrishna, a counter-terrorism analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
“The threat of returning Southeast Asian fighters radicalized in the Iraq/Syria region are also another factor of concern, together with the possibility of self-radicalized lone wolves appearing in the scene.”
Witnesses to the carnage also on Thursday said a powerful explosion ripped through a branch of US coffee giant Starbucks before at least one gunman emerged and began shooting at bystanders, reloading his weapon as police flooded the streets.
In chaotic scenes, security forces moved in behind the cover of moving vehicles, with regular bursts of gunfire and warnings of a sniper in the area.
As well as the confirmed deaths, a number of people were feared injured, with an eyewitness telling Agence France-Presse he had seen a “terrorist” repeatedly shooting at bystanders, including a local journalist.
“I heard a loud bang, boom. It felt like an earthquake. We all went downstairs,” said Ruli Koestaman, 32, who had been in a nearby building when the attack started around 10:35a.m.
“We then saw that the Starbucks downstairs was destroyed too. I saw a foreigner—Westerner, a man—with a mangled hand but alive.