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Security Alert Up In Metro Hotels As Bombs Rock Jakarta ( 2nd UPDATE)

July 17, 2009

RITZ CARLTON JAKARTA BLAST MONTAGE

Security is being heightened in Metro Manila’s 5-star hotels in the wake of this morning’s twin hotel bombings in Jakarta with the death toll going up to 9, with dozens wounded.

It looks like  Ritz Carlton Jakarta sustained heavier damage but the nearby J.W, Marriot also sustained considerable damage.

Marriot Jakarta is sister facility of Makati’s Renaissance New World Hotel.

What’s troubling is suspicion in the Jakarta blasts is falling on the radical Al Qaeda-affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah group from whom the Abu Sayyaf draws ideological guidance and training in bomb-making and bombing techniques.

The Jemaah Islamiyah had been tagged as responsible for the 2003 bombing of the Philippiune embassy in Jakarta which severely wounded our ambassador Leonides Caday.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jemaah_Islamiyah

Here’s part of the Associated report in the today’s incident:

The attacks came ahead of a high-profile trip by the Manchester United football team to Indonesia. The team was scheduled to stay at the Ritz on Saturday and Sunday nights for a friendly match against the Indonesian All Stars, the Indonesian Football association said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna said the likely perpetrators were from the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah.
“The only group with the intention and capability to mount attacks upon Western targets in Jemaah Islamiyah. I have no doubt Jemaah Islamiyah was responsible for this attack,” he said.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iq-RSvjSDopV724MnWihBs7hYbpwD99G18D83

Malacanang  just yesterday reversed its earlier inclination to declare an amnesty for the murderous group, bowing to criticism from various sectors.

That the Jakarta blasts occurred just 5 minutes apart showed their close coordination with those responsible clearly part of sleeper cells already in the heart of the Indonesian capital.

The risk to Metro Manila is probably lesser if we are to believe the assurance of police and military officials.

But today’s events could point to a possible change in the security situation in the region.

UPDATE

Anti-terrorism experts of the Interpol and member nations of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) are going to have a busy weekend of back-channel consultations to assess the imlications of yesterday’s twin hotel bombings in Jakarta.

Analysts should not miss the fast that the Jakarta bombings came exactly one week after Al Qaeda’s number two leaderAyman al-Zawahiri issued an on line audio message directing Al Qaeda jihadists to come to the aid of their comrades in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

While Zwahiri did not address his call to Jemaah Islamiyah the message certain bore general portions that could be taken as a ‘signal’ by JI cells in Jakarta and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

It must also be noted that US State Secretary Hillary Clinton is set to meet with ASEAN ministers in te next several days.

Zwahiri in his July 15 audio message said in part:

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahir

If we stand by passively without offering due support to the mujahedeen, we shall not only contribute to the destruction of Pakistan and Afghanistan, but we shall also deserve the painful punishment of almighty God.

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/07/15/pakistan.al.qaeda.message/

The Asian Wall Street Journal’s latest online update on the jakarta bombings yesterday notes:

Until Friday, there hadn’t been a major terrorist attack in the country since the second round of bombings in Bali in 2005, and the Jemaah Islamiyah group, which has expressed a desire to create an Islamic caliphate in Southeast Asia, had appeared to largely fall apart.
Scores of operatives have been captured or killed in shootouts, while others fled to the nearby Philippines, where they linked up with Muslim separatists to stage fresh bombing campaigns and deepen a decades-old insurgency that is still under way despite U.S. efforts to train and support the Philippine military. Jemaah Islamiyah’s former operations chief, Riduan Isamuddin, or Hambali, was tracked down in Thailand in 2003 and sent to Guantanamo Bay, where he remains in U.S. detention.
At the same time, Indonesia has moved steadily toward embracing democracy after years of authoritarian role under the late President Suharto. Some security analysts began worrying more about the Philippines’ ability to clamp down on organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf group and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which are fighting for an independent Islamic state in the south of the predominantly Christian Philippines. Both the Philippines-based groups have their own links to al Qaeda and previously helped train militants from Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124784895479658909.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Most telling is this assessment made by Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and author of “Inside al-Qaeda: Global Network of Terror:

The attacks clearly demonstrate the group’s resilience and ability to adapt, as well as its determination to continue despite the arrest of some top leaders.

2nd UPDATE

Both Malacanang and the national police issued statements affirming the heightened concern, including the possibility that the incidents in Jakarta could spill over to the Philippines:

Philippine national police spokesman Senior Superintendent Leonardo Espina: “We are in touch with security details of hotels and places of heavy public convergence like malls and terminals. The PNP has deputized community watch groups “to check for all suspicious looking persons” and vehicles in public places. We are on heightened alert in Metro Manila and full alert in Mindanao. ”

Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo:  “These dastardly and inhumane acts all the more reinforce the need for vigilance and greater and deeper cooperation regionally and globally, to counter, prevent and suppress all acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”


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