Jakarta blasts: Witnesses recall chaos as terror unfolds

In a series of pictures taken by a Tempo photographer yesterday, at least one policeman was shown being gunned down by the two militants. The shooting took place at the intersection of two major roads in Jakarta's business district, where a crowd had
In a series of pictures taken by a Tempo photographer yesterday, at least one policeman was shown being gunned down by the two militants. PHOTO: TEMPO

Drama played out on the streets and on TV screens, with at least six blasts and a gunfight

JAKARTA • Witnesses spoke of pandemonium breaking out after powerful blasts ripped through downtown Jakarta yesterday.

At least one gunman fired repeatedly at bystanders, reloading his weapon as police officers flooded the streets, according to some.

Mr Ruli Koestaman, 32, was in a nearby building when the attack started in mid-morning.

"Then I heard a loud bang, boom. It felt like an earthquake. We all went downstairs," he said.

"We saw that the Starbucks downstairs was destroyed too. I saw a foreigner - Westerner, a man - with a mangled hand but alive.

"A Starbucks waiter then ran out with blood coming out of his ear. And I asked 'anyone hurt inside?', he said yes, one. Dead already.

"Then everybody gathered and a terrorist appeared. He had a gun and started shooting at us and then at Starbucks. Then the police post... exploded."

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that a United Nations employee had been confirmed to be among the critically injured in the attacks in central Jakarta.

Dutch native Johan Kieft, head of a Green Economy Unit, was in Starbucks during the explosions when he was apparently shot.

 
 
 

The drama played out on the streets and on television screens yesterday morning, with at least six explosions and a gunfight in a movie theatre.

Graphic photographs from the scene showed bloodied bodies - believed to be of two men in civilian clothes - lying by the side of a road next to the wrecked police post.

Another body, apparently also male, was lying in the centre of the street while yet another, almost naked, could be seen nearby.

"The Starbucks cafe windows are blown out. I see three dead people on the road," said Reuters photographer Darren Whiteside, as the attack unfolded.

"There has been a lull in the shooting, but someone is on the roof of the building and police are aiming their guns at him," he added.

Mr Jeremy Douglas, a UN official based in Bangkok, said he heard explosions as his car was pulling into the building housing the agency's offices. The building was later put on lockdown.

"The driver got a call that something happened at the building," he said by telephone.

"I got out of the car, and an explosion went off behind the building. I could feel it."

Mr Douglas, the regional representative for South-east Asia and the Pacific for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said he sought refuge in the offices and heard more explosions from there, as well as gunfire.

"It sounds very close," he said.

Yesterday's blasts were the first major attack in Jakarta since the twin bombings of the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in 2009.

Ms Wenny Astaria, a 26-year-old student in Jakarta, expressed grief over the tragedy but said she was confident in the local government and police.

"I'm not scared, Jakarta is still a safe place," she was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2016, with the headline 'Witnesses recall chaos as terror unfolds'. Print Edition | Subscribe