Car bombing in Jakarta

The Jemaah Islamiah group has claimed responsibility for the bombing near the Australian embassy in Jakarta on Thursday. The claim came in a purported Internet statement that also warned of more attacks unless Australia withdraws its forces from Iraq. "We decided to make Australia pay in Jakarta today when one of the Mujahideen brothers carried out a martyrdom (suicide) operation at the Australian embassy," the Arabic statement from the "al-Jama'a al-Islamiya in East Asia" said, in apparent reference to the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah in Indonesia. It was not immediately possible to verify the claim which appeared in a public web forum which has sometimes carried claims from Islamic groups which turned out to be false. World leaders have condemned the attack in Jakarta and the United States has offered assistance to Indonesia. At least 9 people died in the attack and more than 180 were injured. Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who was attending the Royal Wedding in Brunei, rushed back to Jakarta after the bombing and later visited the scene. She has also spoken with Australian Prime Minister John Howard on the phone, but no details on that conversation was released. After a visit to the site and to blast victims in a nearby hospital, she called on Indonesians not to panic and to work together against terrorists, reports Channelnewsasia. According to the NEWS, if the bombers who struck outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta yesterday had known, many more people would have died. Just last Saturday, the annual Australian ball in Jakarta was moved from a five-star hotel because of warnings of an imminent attack on a Western target from the Americans. The party was moved to the grounds of the Australian embassy because it was viewed as safer. The street outside was crowded with Australian expats queuing to get in. It is not a scene anyone expects to see again any time soon in Jakarta, not after yesterday. But if the Australian embassy was the symbolic target, the bombers succeeded in killing mostly Indonesians on Rasuna Said Street outside. The bombers could not get inside the embassy, and they detonated their explosives in the street. "Before the bomb blast, a mini-van car intentionally hit the road divider which was placed in front of the embassy's gate," said Ismanto, an embassy security guard. Then all hell broke loose. Suwardi, 39, said he was at a building just behind the embassy applying for a job. "I tried to run away after the bang," said Suwardi. "But the impact of the bomb was just so big. The perpetrators are not human. They're animals, they're devils. They must be fought." A Shepparton businessman who recently returned from Indonesia expressed disappointment yesterday - but not surprise - at a bomb attack outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta. At least eight people were killed, and more than 160 injured when the bomb exploded outside the embassy gates about 1.15 pm Australian time. No Australians were killed or injured. Jeremy Gaylard's business GAP AgriFood Exports has an office just 1.5 km from the blast site, and he regularly visits the area. Mr Gaylard, a former Shepparton mayor who was working in Jakarta in August last year when the JW Marriott Hotel was bombed, said yesterday's attack was a senseless loss of life, publishes Shepparton News Online.

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