Blasts Kill 8 At 2 Indonesian Luxury Hotels

Officials say at least eight people are dead and dozens injured after bombings at two luxury hotels in Indonesia. The security minister says the blasts in downtown Jakarta happened two minutes apart and were caused by "high explosives."

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

We have some more information about the bombings that struck two American owned hotels in Jakarta. The bombs exploded today at a Ritz Carlton and at the nearby J.W. Marriott. At least eight people have been killed. Investigators believe the bombers actually checked in as guests of one of the hotels. Police found undetonated explosives and other signs that the attackers made their headquarters in room 1808 of the Marriott. This morning we called NPR's Michael Sullivan, a regular traveler to Indonesia who's covered similar bombings in past years. He's also been a guest in one of those hotels.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN: It's an upscale area in south Jakarta. There are many up market hotels there, including the J.W. Marriott and the Ritz Carlton. And it's a place where the hotels have very tight security. I mean, you go to these hotels in a car and they stop your car at the barricades. They search your car and they search your belongings. And security's usually very tight here. But these bombs seemed to have been detonated by individuals carrying them -probably in backpacks, but that's just speculation at this point - in the restaurant of the Ritz Carlton and on the ground floor of the J.W. Marriott.

INSKEEP: And they happened virtually simultaneously?

SULLIVAN: Virtually simultaneously. And it's not completely clear if it's the work of suicide bombers, but that's the assumption of many security analysts here. Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in a televised address said those responsible would be found, but he declined to say who those people where. But most analysts believe this is the work of Jemaah Islamiyah.

INSKEEP: What is that?

SULLIVAN: It's a southeast Asian terror group that's responsible for many attacks here - the Bali bombings in October 2002 that killed more than 200 people, the first Marriott attacks, as you mentioned, in August 2003 that killed 12, the September 2004 attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta and again in Bali in October 2005, three suicide bombers who killed more than 20 people. This is a nasty bunch.

INSKEEP: The bombings that you mentioned - there was one in 2002, one in 2003, 2004, 2005, then there was a lull up until today.

SULLIVAN: Yeah, and that's because the Indonesian security forces, with help from the Americans and the Australians, were doing a very good job of rounding up these people and winding up their operations. But several J.I. operatives are still out there. And the man - the most important one, I think, is a man called Noordin Top, who is J.I.'s leading bomb maker. And he has not been found yet. And many analysts suspect that today's bombings are probably the work of Noordin Top.

INSKEEP: We should remember that Indonesia is a majority Muslim country, couple hundred million people and more. How widespread, if at all, is the support for Jemaah Islamiyah and the work that it's doing - the bombing, the killing?

SULLIVAN: I don't think it's very widespread at all. I think most Indonesians don't like the fact that J.I. operates this way in Indonesia and that a lot of the people that have been killed in these terror attacks have not been Westerners, as the targets have been intended to be, but have been ordinary Indonesians. And I think many Indonesians have been upset about this. And I think that's why J.I. and other hard line groups like it haven't managed to find any real traction, any widespread support, in Indonesia, because most people simply don't like them.

INSKEEP: These are counterproductive tactics.

SULLIVAN: Counterproductive, yes, but, you know, there are hard line groups out there. But the Indonesians have done a very good job the last couple of years in keeping these attacks from happening. I think it's been almost four years now since the last attack. So they've done a good job. Many people were waiting for something to happen, though, and today it appears it has.

INSKEEP: Michael, thanks very much.

SULLIVAN: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: NPR's Michael Sullivan reporting today from his base in Hanoi.

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