Friday, September 10, 2004

Jakarta, September 9: the story continues 

Note: Also see the previous post for the initial news and commentary.

Responsibility by SMS: The Indonesian authorities have admitted to Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer that an officer in the paramilitary police unit, known as BRIMOB, has received a warning of the attack via a cell phone text message some 45 minutes before the explosion occurred. According to reports, the message indicated that foreign embassies would be targeted, but did not specify any particular one. The text message also gave the authorities an ultimatum to release Abu Bakar Bashir, the militant cleric and spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, currently accused of involvement in JI's previous terrorist attacks (this adds credence to theories, mentioned in the previous post, that the reasons for the attack are a mixture of domestic Indonesian and international anti-Western and anti-Australian agendas).

The explosion: According to the latest reports, as many as three suicide bombers might have been involved. "Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said early reports indicated the bomb may have contained up to 200kg of low explosive potassium chlorate, detonated by a high-explosive TNT charge. The bomb was probably placed in a minivan - a method similar to the Bali bombings and last year's attack on the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta."

The reactions: BBC reports on what the Indonesian media is making of the Jakarta attack. It might just be a matter of unfortunate selection, but half the papers seem to be blaming the police and the authorities for insufficient counter-terrorist efforts, and the other half are blaming Australia for making itself a target. No word on the terrorists themselves.

Meanwhile, the government of Iran has condemned the attack as "unjustifiable." It also called "for cooperation of the international community to eradicate terrorism." According to the US State Department, Iran remains "the most active state sponsor of terrorism."

And the French Foreign Ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous said that France "strongly condemns the attack which struck Indonesia" and recalled "our joint determination to combat terrorism and to that end, press on with cooperation efforts." France is continuing to negotiate to release its two hostages currently being held in Iraq.

The "Sydney Morning Herald" is on the same wave-length, asking its readers whether Australia should negotiate with terrorists. As I'm writing this, 62% say no, but sadly, there are 30% out there who think it's a good idea.

More to come?: Australia's intelligence agencies have warned the Prime Minister Howard of a possibility of another attack in Indonesia of a similar magnitude.

Update: It seems that more might indeed be to come. Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty says there are indication that another suicide bombing squad could be at large in Jakarta right now, preparing to strike.

Meanwhile, Brian Deegan continues to advocate appeasement... sorry, negotiations with terrorists: "[H]e says history is full of deals with what were once considered terrorist organisations. He cites the British and the IRA , the Israelis and British in the 1940s, and the African National Congress working with the South African Government. He says it is not a novel approach but it could save years and lives." Jemaah Islamiah's goal is to create a fundamentalist Caliphate that includes much of the South East Asia including parts of northern Australia. Since Mr Deegan lives in Adelaide, negotiating away some of the the Northern Territory and northern Queensland must not seem like a such a big deal to him. I live in Brisbane - it's much closer. One could also add that the goals and ambitions of al Qaeda/JI are somewhat more expansive than those of the IRA, the Jews or the ANC, which would make for more difficult negotiations.

Speaking of Adelaide, the main suspect in the bombing, Malaysian-born al Qaeda/JI operative and a master bomb maker Dr Azahari Husin studied engineering at the Adelaide University in the 1980s. Maybe Mr Deegan and Dr Husin can sit down and negotiate - one Adelaide man with another.


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