JAKARTA—The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for Thursday’s coordinated bomb and gun attack in the Indonesian capital that left seven people dead, including all five attackers.
The Islamic State-linked Aamaq News Agency said the attack in an upscale neighborhood in central Jakarta “targeted foreign nationals and security forces charged with protecting them.”
Earlier, Indonesian national police spokesman Anton Charliyan said an IS-affiliated group was likely behind the assault, and that the attackers were likely trying to imitate the recent Paris terror attacks.
The violence began with a series of explosions midmorning in an area near an upscale shopping center, luxury hotels, embassies and other office buildings. In total, six blasts were reported.
Intense gun battles
The militants engaged in intense gun battles with police throughout the day. By late afternoon, authorities declared the attack over, saying all five militants were killed. Two other people, a Canadian and an Indonesian, were also killed, police said.
Thamrin Street, a major thoroughfare where the attacks occurred, was reopened. While clearing the area, police say they found one large and five small unexploded bombs. It is not clear why the bombs did not go off.
It is also not clear why the Islamic State group chose to attack Jakarta. Indonesian authorities in November had received a threat from the group about a coordinated bomb attack in the capital.
“Around Christmas and New Year’s there was a threat by this group (IS) that they will do what they call a ‘concert’ in Jakarta, meaning they will set off bomb explosions in several places at the same time,” VOA Indonesian Service reporter Frans Demon said.
Starbucks possibly targeted
An eyewitness told VOA’s Indonesian Service that at least one the the blasts was near police post while another struck outside a Starbucks coffee shop. The coffee chain later said it closed all its locations in Jakarta as a security precaution.
“This is a very popular shopping area with restaurants and office buildings. About 50 meters from there is the United Nations office. The U.S. Embassy is almost around 400 or 500 meters from there, not far from the presidential palace, actually. So this is a really centrally located place,” Demon said.
Witnesses said some of the explosions were caused by suicide bombers, though police officials have denied this, saying instead the attackers threw grenades as they drove by on motorcycles.
President Joko Widodo, speaking to a local television station, condemned the “acts of terror,” stressing authorities are working to contain the situation.
The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta says it will remain closed Friday, as a precaution, following the attack.
Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the assault. “These acts of terror are not going to intimidate nation-states from protecting their citizens and continuing to provide real opportunity, education, jobs, possibilities of a future. There is nothing in any act of terror that offers anything but death and destruction. And so we stand together, all of us, united in our efforts to eliminate those who choose terror,” Kerry told reporters in London.
‘People should not be afraid’
“Our nation and our people should not be afraid. We will not be defeated by these acts of terror. I hope the public stays calm,” said the president, who is on a trip to the island of Java.
Near the site of the initial explosions, a United Nations building was said to be on lockdown.
In a series of tweets, Jeremy Douglas, a regional representative for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, reported at least six explosions, including an apparent suicide bomber and a “serious exchange of gunfire in the street.”
Leaders from around the region also expressed condolences and expanded security measures.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also condemned the violence and offered “any support that Indonesia may need to respond to these attacks.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he was “shocked and saddened” by the attack. Malaysia “stands ready to help in any way,” he said in a tweet.
The Royal Malaysian Police said they have raised their security alert level to the “highest degree,” ramping up public police patrols and increasing monitoring of terror suspects.
In Singapore, officials said they were “deeply shocked” at the Indonesian attack and also implemented stepped up security measures.
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim majority nation, has been the target of several terrorist attacks, most notably the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.
Before Thursday, the last attack against foreigners was a twin hotel bombing in Jakarta in 2009.
Jakarta has long been warning about the threat of recruitment by Islamic State and other extremist groups. Hundreds of Indonesians are believed to have left to fight with Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.