Attackers set off a series of explosions in a bustling shopping area of Indonesia’s capital city Thursday morning in what authorities said was an imitation of last November’s terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.
By the time Jakarta police declared the attack over nearly five hours after it began, at least seven people had been killed, including five attackers. It was unclear whether any other assailants remained at large.
Jakarta police spokesman Col. Muhammad Iqbal said two of the attackers were killed by police, but did not specify how the others had died.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the violence, but Indonesian national police spokesman Gen. Anton Charliyan said the attackers were likely linked to the ISIS terror group, saying, “They imitated the terror actions in Paris.”
Police had repeatedly warned in recent weeks that Islamic militants were planning something big in Jakarta, a city of 10 million people. It was the first major terror attack in Indonesia since the 2009 bombings of two hotels that killed seven people and injured more than 50. Before that, a bombing in a nightclub on the resort island of Bali in 2002 killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.
“This act is clearly aimed at disturbing public order and spreading terror among people,” President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, said in statement on television. Jokowi, who is on a working visit in West Java town of Cirebon, said he is returning to Jakarta immediately.
“The state, the nation and the people should not be afraid of, and lose to, such terror acts,” he said.
The first explosions took place in front of the Sarinah shopping mall on Thamrin Street at approximately 10:30 a.m. local time (10:30 p.m. Wednesday EST). Tri Seranto, a bank security guard, told the Associated Press he saw at least five attackers, three of whom caused explosions near a Starbucks.
Tri described them as suicide bombers but Charilyan denied they blew themselves up.
He said the attack involved an unknown number of assailants with grenades and guns, including at least one person on a motorcycle.
Tri said two other attackers carrying handguns entered a police post, from where he heard gunfire. He said he later saw one policeman dead and three seriously wounded. The two gumen fled the scene with police officers chasing them.
After the first explosions a gun battle broke out between the attackers and anti-terror police squads, and gunfire could be heard more than 90 minutes later.
About two hours later, another explosion was heard from a cafe near the Starbucks, about five minutes after 25 anti-terror policemen entered it. It was not clear if the explosion was a controlled detonation or a bomb.
In addition to the Sarinah mall, the oldest in Jakarta, the area has many luxury hotels, offices and embassies, including the French.
The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta released an emergency message warning American citizens to avoid the area around Sari Pan Pacific Hotel and Sarinah Plaza due to the ongoing attack.
There were unconfirmed media reports of explosions in another part of Jakarta, where the embassies of Turkey and Pakistan are located.
Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said that one of the country’s citizens had been seriously wounded in the attack. The male victim’s name was not released, but a ministry spokeswoman said he was undergoing surgery.
Koenders said the attack showed that “terrorism can hit everybody. Whether you are shopping in the heart of Paris, in a New York office or on vacation in Jakarta.”
Starbucks said one customer sustained injuries from one of the explosions and was treated at the scene, while all employees were confirmed to be safe. The company also said its stores in Jakarta would be closed until further notice as a precaution.
“We are deeply saddened by the senseless acts that have taken place in Jakarta today,” the company said in a statement. “Our hearts are with the people of Indonesia.”
Tweets from the account of Jeremy Douglas, regional representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, described a bomb and “serious” exchanges of gunfire on the street outside his Jakarta office.
Indonesia has been on high alert after authorities said they had foiled a plot last month by Islamic militants to attack government officials, foreigners and others. About 150,000 police officers and soldiers were deployed during New Year’s Eve to guard churches, airports and other public places.
More than 9,000 police were also deployed in Bali, the site of Indonesia’s deadliest terror attack, which killed 202 people in 2002.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.