JAKARTA: Gunfire and explosions in the Indonesian capital Jakarta killed at least four people Thursday, with police flooding the streets amid fears gun-toting militants were still on the run.
Witnesses said at least one gunman had attacked a cafe in the city centre — near a cluster of embassies — shooting at bystanders, as a series of explosions rocked the area.
Badly mangled bodies were seen lying on the streets as security forces moved in, with regular reports of gunfire and warnings of snipers in the area.
“Four people died, one police officer and three civilians,” national police spokesman Anton Charliyan told AFP.
“For now the gunfire has stopped but they are still on the run, we are afraid there will be more gunshots.”
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, suffered several major bomb attacks by Islamic radicals between 2000 and 2009, including the 2002 bombings on the resort island of Bali that killed 202 people.
A security crackdown weakened the most dangerous extremist networks, leading to a long lull in large-scale strikes. However, the emergence of Islamic State has raised concern that Indonesians returning from Middle East battlefields could stage attacks on home soil.
As well as the known deaths, a number of people were feared injured in Thursday’s assault, with an eyewitness telling AFP he had seen a “terrorist” open fire on a local journalist.
Ruli Koestaman, 32, who had been in a meeting in a nearby building, said the attack started around 10:35am (0335 GMT).
“Then I heard a loud bang, boom. It felt like an earthquake. We all went downstairs,” he said.
“We then saw that the Starbucks downstairs was destroyed too. I saw a foreigner, Westerner, a man, with a mangled hand but alive.
“A Starbucks waiter then ran out with blood coming out of his ear. And I asked anyone hurt inside, he said yes, one. Dead already.
“Then everybody gathered and a terrorist appeared. He had a gun and started shooting at us and then at Starbucks. Then the police post… exploded.”
Koestaman said the attacker shot at a reporter who was at the scene.
“Police then started to shoot at the guy, who kept reloading his gun. And then there was another explosion. Then shootings.”
The blasts — at least six, according to eyewitnesses — were close to a shopping centre, the Sarinah.
Graphic photographs from the scene showed the bloodied bodies of what appeared to be two men in civilian clothes lying by the side of a road next to the wrecked police post.
Another body, also apparently male, dressed all in black was pictured lying on his back in the centre of the street while another, almost naked, lay nearby.
Anton Charliyan, national police spokesman, told Metro TV :
“This is not a suicide bomb, based on witness account at the police post it was something that was thrown, whether it was a grenade or a bomb we still haven’t been able to confirm.
“Nobody has been arrested”
He said at least one attacker — maybe two — fled afterwards, using a motorbike.
Police had earlier said the explosions were caused by bombs.
Officers at the scene told AFP reporters to “get back” because there “is a sniper” on the roof of a building.
Plainclothes police officers were also seen aiming their handguns towards people outside the Starbucks.
Other armed officers were seen taking up positions behind a vehicle.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attacks.
The bombs come just weeks after Jakarta was placed on high alert after anti-terror police foiled what they said were plans for an New Year suicide attack in the Indonesian capital.
Late last month police said they had arrested two men, including a member of China’s Uighur minority, who they claimed were involved in the plot.
After a series of attacks on foreigners in the last decade, Indonesian extremists have in recent years directed their violence at domestic “enemies of Islam”, mostly police.
There have been no attacks against foreigners since the 2009 twin hotel bombings in Jakarta that killed seven people.