Militants launched a gun and bomb assault in the center of the Indonesian capital on Thursday, killing at least seven people, police said, in an attack on a country that Islamic State had threatened to put in its "spotlight".
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a series of gun and bomb attacks in central Jakarta earlier Thursday, Reuters reported.
Several explosive devices were planted, while four militants attacked with guns and explosive belts, the jihadist group said in a statement.
According to IS, 15 people were killed in the attack, a claim that contradicts the Indonesian government’s official death toll of seven people.
The group’s responsibility for the Jakarta attack was earlier reported by a news agency affiliated to Islamic State.
Police said four of the attackers and three others were killed in the brazen attacks, which came after several warnings in recent weeks by the police that Islamic militants were planning something big. It was unclear if other perpetrators remained at large.
It was the first major violence in Indonesia\’s capital 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.
Tri Seranto, a bank security guard, told The Associated Press he saw at least five attackers, including three who triggered explosions at the Starbucks. It was not immediately clear if they exploded bombs or grenades.
Tri described them as suicide bombers but Gen. Anton Charilyan, a spokesman for the national police, denied they blew themselves up.
He said the attack involved an unknown number of assailants with grenades and guns, at least one on a motorcycle. He said three civilians were killed. Later, Jakarta police spokesman Col. Muhammad Iqbal said four of the attackers were killed, and their bodies retrieved.
Tri said he was out on the street when he saw the three men entering Starbucks. He said the other two attackers, carrying handguns, entered a police post from where he heard gunfire.
TVOne, a local television network, reported three other explosions in other parts of the city.
After the first explosions a gun-battle broke out between the attackers and anti-terror police squads, and gunfire could be heard more than 1 ½ hours 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.
The area has many luxury hotels, and offices and embassies, including the French. The other set of explosions were in neighborhoods where the embassies of Turkey and Pakistan are located.
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. "Didn\’t experience this in 3.5 years in #Pakistan," he wrote.
"A massive #bomb went off in front of our new #Indonesia office as @collie_brown & I exit car. Chaos & we\’re going into lock-down," he wrote. And three minutes later: "Apparent #suicidebomber literally 100m from the office and my hotel. Now gunfire."
Indonesia, the world\’s most populous Muslim nation, has been a victim of several bombing attacks in the past, claimed by Islamic militant groups.
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Last month, anti-terror police arrested nine men and said the group had wanted to "perform a \’concert\’ to attract international news coverage of their existence here." Police cited a document seized from the group that described the planned attacks as a "concert."
The country has been on high alert after authorities said they had foiled a plot 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.
On Tuesday, the jailed radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir appealed to an Indonesia court to have his conviction for funding a terror training camp overturned, arguing that his support for the camp was an act of worship.
The 77-year-old leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah militant network filed a judicial review of his 2011 conviction, when he was sentenced to 15 years in jail for setting up the camp in Aceh province. A higher court later cut the sentence to nine years.
Indonesia has suffered a spate of deadly attacks by the Jemaah Islamiyah network in the past. But strikes in recent years have been smaller and less deadly, and have targeted government authorities, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces.
SOURCE: Associated Press and agencies