Posted by: Frederik Balfour on July 17, 2009
The terrorists behind the bloody bombings at the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Indonesia’s capital city Jakarta today have delivered a major blow to the reputation of this Southeast Asian country as a moderate democratic and prosperous Islamic nation. Whether or not they are the work of extremists with links to Al-Qaeda or not makes little difference at this point, while in all probability it is probably the same group behind the Bali bombings. What’s clear is that the murderous attacks Friday that left at least 9 dead have quickly undone the good that four years without any bombings, sustained prosperity [even through the global crisis] and the reelection of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in largely peaceful elections earlier this month had achieved.
Before writing this blog I checked my most recent story on Indonesia written at the time of Hillary Clinton’s visit to Indonesia in February. Only two writers responded with comments: “who cares?” wrote one. The other was far more ominous and eerily prophetic: “The militant Jamiat Islamiah theology is just bubbling under the surface,” wrote the author. Although no group has officially claimed responsibility for the blasts that rocked the luxury hotels, there’s little doubt that Islamic militants are behind the attacks. Like the Bali bombings of 2002 that killed more than 200 people, and the blast at the Australian embassy in 2004, the targets of the latest attacks were chosen because of their western affiliation. Jemiah Islamiah has well-known Al Qaeda links. It’s no coincidence that the Marriott hotel in Islamabad was bombed by extremists in September last year. [I stayed there for nearly four months after 9-11 and knew even then how vulnerable it was too attack.]
Indonesia has been attempting to woo new foreign investment in recent years and the re-election of Yudhoyono, who in the past five years has presided over a peaceful period of strong economic growth, was viewed as a selling point. The country is still considered corrupt, however, and the labyrinthine bureaucracy remains a major stumbling block in attracting many new deals. A few notable exceptions include the $5 billion purchase of a local cigarette company by Philip Morris in 2005, several new factories built by Unilever in recent years and the decision by Volkswagen this year to build a $50 million auto assembly plant were considered a vote of confidence by multinationals, but the fresh bombings will no doubt send a chilling message to any other foreign companies contemplating new projects in Indonesia.
For those wishing to understand better how a terrorist group cultivates ties with Al Qaeda here is a very good piece from Slate “How does regional terrorist group have “ties” to Al-Qaida http://bit.ly/Smdr6