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At Least 10 Dead In Car Bomb Attack on Marriott in Jakarta

By Keith Bradsher

The New York Times -- JAKARTA, Indonesia

In the most devastating attack on Indonesian soil since the twin Bali blasts last October, a sport utility vehicle packed with explosives blew up on Tuesday, striking a Marriott hotel, a large restaurant and an office building in Jakarta, the capital. Reports of the death toll ranged from 10 to 15 in the first few hours; about 150 were reported injured.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility, but because all three buildings were frequented by Americans, Indonesia’s vice president, Hamzah Haz, said the attack appeared to have been aimed at American interests.

The toll may be high among Indonesians. The U.S. State Department said that no American citizens had been killed, while local news media reported on Wednesday morning that of 15 dead counted at various hospitals, all but one was Indonesian. The injured, the reports said, included an American, an Australian and two Chinese.

The Indonesian government said it knew of only one foreigner among the dead. It released no further information, but PT Rabobank Duta Indonesia, a bank that is majority-owned by Rabobank of the Netherlands, said the blast had killed Hans Winkelmolen, a Dutch citizen who had been the bank’s president until last Friday.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation. The faith has traditionally been moderate here, but more radical pockets have taken root in recent years, bringing separatist fighting and then terrorist attacks, many linked to the group Jemaah Islamiyah, which has itself been linked to al-Qaida.

The explosion on Tuesday came two days before an Indonesian court was expected to announce a verdict in the first of a number of cases of men accused of planning and carrying out the Bali attack, which killed 202 people, most of them Australian. At least one suspect has said that the Bali attacks were meant to hurt “America and its allies because they are international terrorists.”

The prime minister of Australia, John Howard, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the attack “had all the hallmarks of Jemaah Islamiyah.”

As in the Bali case, Howard said, Australian law enforcement agents would help investigate. “We have sent a new group of crime scene investigation federal police,” he said. “They will join other officers to assist in the Indonesian police pursuit of the people responsible.”

The White House strongly condemned the bombing and said it would provide any assistance possible to Indonesia. Australia also condemned the bombing, and an Indonesian official said his country had already sought the help of Australian investigators, who played a substantial role in looking into the Bali bombings as well.

The government in Indonesia immediately said it would impose more stringent internal controls on its people. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political and security affairs, said after a cabinet meeting, “Those who criticize about human rights being breached must understand that all the bombing victims are more important than any human rights issue.”

The explosion Tuesday was apparently carefully planned and timed. Indonesian officials said that the vehicle was apparently moving through the horseshoe-shaped driveway serving the buildings when it exploded, and suggested that this pointed to a suicide bomber.