AP Photo/Irwin Fedriansyah
Police officers stand guard outside Ritz-Carlton hotel after an explosion in Jakarta, Indonesia,
Friday, July 17, 2009.

The Jakarta Bombings: Assessing Responsibility and International Response

July 17, 2009 03:30 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Suicide bomb attacks in Jakarta ignite suspicion of al-Qaida influence, but who exactly is responsible and how should the world respond?

Western Hotels Targeted

On Friday morning, near-simultaneous suicide bomb attacks inside two American luxury hotels in the Indonesian capital killed eight and left dozens injured. Among the casualties were eight Americans and citizens of Indonesia, Britain, South Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Canada, India and Norway, Reuters reported.

The hotels, a JW Marriot and a Ritz Carlton, draw business travelers from around the world and are known for having extremely tight security. Yet police say the culprits had checked in as guests at the Marriot, and assembled the deadly bombs inside their room, Reuters reported.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, recently reelected and praised for his national security and economic successes, was "visibly upset," according to Reuters. He said the attacks would impact Indonesian business and tourism, as well as the nation's image.

Background: Who is responsible?

An al-Qaida-related terrorist group called Jemaah Islamiya (JI) is suspected of involvement in the attacks. According to ABC News, JI has also been linked to the 2002 bombings of Bali nightclubs, and to a previous attack on the same Jakarta Marriott hotel in 2003.

The group's leading bomb maker, Noordin Top, "has been at large and feared to be preparing a new attack," ABC News reported. Still, the bombings took Indonesian and U.S. authorities by surprise, and indicated that al-Qaida groups will not back down without putting up a fight, ABC News suggested.

Splinter group

Sidney Jones, an Islamic militants expert for the International Crisis Group, indicated that the attacks were probably carried out by "a splinter group" comprised partly of JI members, Reuters reported. Many of the group's militants had been arrested for involvement in attacks prior to 2005, but some were released from prison recently. An Australian security report, released the day before the most recent attacks, predicted resurgence, Reuters reported.

According to The Associated Press, the Australian report said that Jemaah Islamiah members recently out of prison have "become ostracized by the mainstream JI group," and some are drawn to "hard-line groups who continue to advocate al-Qaida-style attacks against Western targets."

The authors of the Australian report, Noor Huda Ismail, executive director of the International Institute for Peacebuilding in Jakarta, and Carl Ungerer, director of the National Security Project at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, shared their personal views in "JI jihadis still plot terrorism," an article for The Australian.

Opinion & Analysis: How the U.S. should respond

In The New Yorker, Steve Coll addresses "The Al Qaeda Paradox" in relation to the suicide attacks in Jakarta. Coll explains that al-Qaida has differentiated itself from other terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, and should be dealt with as such.

"The correct response to this paradox is to develop in the United States a posture of strategic patience about terrorism that is durable, vigilant, and proportional to the actual threat," Coll writes. He recalls American policy during the Cold War, as well as Britain's response to the Irish Republican Army and India's handling of the Mumbai attacks as examples to follow now.

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Historical Context: Indonesia as terrorist breeding ground

According to CNN, police in Indonesia believe "JI is the resurgence of an earlier Muslim movement, Darul Islam (DI)," which was responsible for an uprising against the Indonesian central government in West Java from 1948-1962 "in an attempt to establish an Islamic state." Once the insurgency was quelled, "the movement went underground."

The International Crisis Group offers a summary of major, ongoing conflicts in Indonesia, with links to reports, articles and opinion pieces on terrorism there, such as "Impact Of The Bali Bombings."

Reference: Jemaah Islamiyah

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) provides thorough coverage of Jemaah Islamiyah, including the founding of the organization in the 1970s; information on group leader Abu Bakar Bashir and other key leaders of the group; details of prior attacks; information on how the group has been pursued by authorities in the U.S., Southeast Asia and Indonesia, and the effectiveness of security measures; and the group's al-Qaida affiliation.

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