, JAKARTA Jul 17 – Bombs tore through two luxury hotels in Jakarta killing at least nine people including foreigners and leaving over 40 others injured, officials said.
Two blasts shook the Ritz-Carlton hotel and the nearby JW Marriott in the upscale Mega Kuningan business district in the centre of the city around 0100 GMT, sending a huge plume of smoke into the sky.
A third explosion was reported near a shopping complex in the north of the Indonesian capital several hours later, but police later denied initial reports that it was also caused by a bomb.
"I heard two sounds like ‘boom, boom’ coming from the Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton. Then I saw people running out," security guard Eko Susanto told AFP.
Blood was spattered on the street outside the Marriott and hundreds of police sealed off the area, an AFP correspondent said.
The bombings were the first major attack in Indonesia since a series of suicide bombings on the resort island of Bali in 2005 which were blamed on the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah Islamic militant group.
"These were high explosive bombs," Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Widodo Adi Sucipto told reporters at the scene.
Windows were blown out of a second-storey restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton, but there was little damage to the Marriott that was visible from outside.
Police said one blast hit the basement of the Marriott and a second struck the restaurant of the Ritz-Carlton at the peak breakfast hour.
Another witness told AFP he saw several foreigners covered in blood in the immediate aftermath of the explosion at the Marriott.
National police spokesman Nanan Soekarna confirmed at least nine people were killed and 41 were injured in the hotel blasts, including 14 foreigners.
"I don’t remember exactly but suddenly the ceiling is falling down and the sound was big," Cho In Sang, 50-year-old South Korean who was staying at the Ritz-Carlton, told AFP at the Metropolitan Medical Centre (MMC) hospital.
Cho, who was lying on a hospital bed with cuts and scratches on his arms and legs, said hotel staff had put him in a car and driven him to hospital.
Police said it was too early to say whether the bombs were planted by Islamic militants as in the attacks that killed 12 people at the Jakarta Marriott in 2003 and more than 200 in Bali in 2002.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was re-elected to a second term in the mainly Muslim country last week, was "deeply concerned over this incident," a spokesman for his office said.
The Islamic militant network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) has been blamed for a string of bombings on local and Western targets in Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia in recent years.
As well as the 2002 Bali bombings and 2003 Marriott attack, JI was also blamed for a suicide attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta in 2004 which left 10 dead and a second attack in Bali in 2005 which killed 20.
JI has been linked by Western governments to the Al-Qaeda network and key JI leader Hambali, who was arrested in Thailand in 2003, was handed over to US custody and is being detained at US prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
The Indonesian authorities arrested many of the top leadership of JI in the aftermath of the Bali bombings and analysts believed the organisation had been severely weakened.
However several key members remained at large including top bombmaker Noordin Mohammed Top, a Malaysian.
Three members of JI were executed in November last year for their role in the 2002 bombings in Bali, and analysts warned at the time there could be reprisal attacks.