Assailants Assault Shopping Center and Cafe in Indonesian Capital
by Jake Jasko
On January 14th, a series of explosions rocked downtown Jakarta, the bustling capital city of Indonesia. Initially, eyewitnesses reported hearing upwards of five explosions, soon to be followed by gunfire. The attacks took place in a busy downtown area, near shopping outlets, foreign embassies and UN offices.
Police were quick to respond, showing up within minutes to begin exchanging gunfire with attackers. After several hours, four assailants had either been shot dead or activated their suicide vests. This number was later revised to five by Indonesian officials, who also stated that three others had been arrested after a pursuit. Days later, twelve other suspects have been arrested, believed to be co-conspirators (BBC).
The attack, which took place outside of a Starbucks and the Sarinah shopping mall, claimed the lives of 4 civilians, one of whom held Canadian citizenship. 23 others were injured by gunfire or explosives, including one Dutch UN official (NY Times).
Experts claim that the low death-toll can be attributed to the relative inexperience and rudimentary weapons of local militants. Despite this, ISIS was quick to claim responsibility for the attack. No one has yet been able to verify this claim. Jakarta’s chief of police has pointed to one man, Bahrun Naim, as the mastermind behind the attack. He is believed to currently be in Raqqa, Syria, and has been known to police since 2010.
This was not Indonesia’s first brush with extremist terror attacks. The infamous Bali bombings in 2002 claimed the lives of 202 people. Perpetrated by militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, the Bali bombings were only a few of several terror attacks on Indonesian soil. Since then, laws have enacted to attempt to crackdown on local extremist groups (BBC).
While partly successful, the 2000’s were still littered with minor bombings and attacks, with the most recent one being in 2009, where a pair of suicide bombers targeted two hotels in Jakarta, killing seven and wounding dozens more (BBC).
Joko Widodo, the president of Indonesia, has condemned the attacks as an “act of terror”. Other members of his cabinet have echoed similar sentiments, with palace spokesperson Ari Dwipayana stating “The president has said the nation and the people should not be scared and should not be defeated by acts of terror” (Reuters).
Up to 200 Indonesians are reported to have left to fight alongside ISIS.
The aftermath of the attack has left many concerned about the reach of ISIS and extremists like them. This is another attack in a long line of recent shootings and bombings, stretching across all continents.