Friday, July 17, 2009




According to Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs, Widodo AS, nine persons were killed and at least 42 injured in two powerful blasts that hit the JW Marriott and the Ritz Carlton hotels in the Mega Kuningan business area in downtown Jakarta early on the morning of July 17,2009.Widodo told reporters that six of the victims were killed at the Marriott hotel, two others at the Ritz-Carlton hotel and one died in hospital. He also said that the 42 injured , including 13 foreigners, were being treated at four hospitals in Jakarta. At least one of those killed has been identified as a business executive from New Zealand.

2. The explosion at the Marriott hotel was reported to have occurred at 7:47 a.m. at the Restaurant Syailendra in the hotel's basement, two minutes before the explosion at the Ritz Carlton. At the Ritz, windows were blown out in a restaurant on the second floor. It appeared that the improvised explosive device (IED) had been placed inside a restaurant in the Ritz too.

3. While there were two explosions---one each in the two hotels--- a third unexploded IED along with some explosive material was
subsequently found by the police in a room of the Marriott Hotel. The IED was deactivated by the police. The Agence France Presse (AFP) has quoted Presidential advisor Djali Yusuf as saying as follows: " The control-centre (for the terrorists) was a room at the JW Marriott, room number 1808, where anti-terror police found explosive materials and an unexploded bomb. The anti-terror police squad has managed to make the bomb inactive."

4. With the Jakarta blasts of July 17, 16 luxury hotels patronised by high-budget tourists, travelling and working businessmen, travelling public servants and local elite, who can afford to eat or stay in such expensive hotels, have been the targets of terrorist attacks since 9/11. Thirteen of these hotels were targeted directly and three others suffered fatalities or other damages as a collateral effect of attacks of which the hotels were not the primary targets.

5.The Marriott hotels in different cities suffered from terrorist attacks in seven incidents--- New York, Jakarta twice, Islamabad thrice and Karachi once. Hotels with link-ups to the Marriott chain were attacked twice--- in Peshawar and in Jakarta on July 17. The Islamabad Marriott and the Peshawar Pearl Continental are run by the same person. The Jakarta Ritz-Carlton has a common employees' pool with the Marriott. An underground passageway connects the two hotels that are located across the road from each other. The Ritz-Carlton group is managed by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company , which is reported to be a subsidiary of Marriott International. The Marriott Hotels have a good reputation for physical security. Despite this, terrorists have managed to strike them repeatedly.

6.Out of the 15 attacks reported after 9/11, in 12 the attacks were mounted from outside either through a suicide bomber or through car bombs. In the two blasts of Jakarta of July 17 and in the Islamabad attack of October 28,2004, the explosions were believed to have been caused by someone inside. In the two blasts of July 17, the IED was suspected to have been assembled inside one of the rooms in the Marriott, which had apparently been rented by the terrorist or terrorists. How did they get the explosive material for the IEDS? Did they manage to smuggle it inside despite tight security or did they fabricate it inside out of commonly available materials bought by them from one of the shops inside? An answer to this question is not available though the Jakarta Police must be knowing from the recovered unexploded IED and the explosive material reportedly found inside a room, how and wherefrom they got the explosive material.

7. Of the 15 attacks after 9/11, two of the attacked hotels were Indian-owned. Ten were owned by Jewish or Western interests or franchised to locals by Western companies.The ownership of the remaining three in Amman is not known.

8. Since luxury hotels patronised by local and foreign social and business elite continue to be among the favourite targets of terrorists, standardised physical security enhancements have to be drawn up. The past enhancements were essentially meant to prevent car bombers and other suicide bombers through tightened access control. How to prevent the fabrication of explosive material and an assembly of an IED inside is a question, which needs urgent attention in the wake of the latest Jakarta blasts.

9.No one has so far claimed responsibility for the Jakarta blasts, but the needle of suspicion points to the Jemaah Islamiyah.

10. Annexed below is a list of attacks on hotels since 9/11. This does not include the attacks on night and tourist spots in Bali in 2002 and 2005 and in Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt in 2005.

( The writer is Additional Secretary (red), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )


9/11:The destruction of the two towers of the New York World Centre by Al Qaeda destroyed the New York Marriott World Trade Center Hotel and the 504-room Marriott Financial Center located there. Some senior executives of the hotel chain, who had their offices in the towers, were killed.
May 8, 2002: Twelve persons, nine of them French, and the remaining Pakistanis were killed when an explosion destroyed a bus of the Pakistani Navy outside the Sheraton Hotel in Karachi. Twenty-five others were injured, many of them French. All of them were working in a production facility of the Pakistan Navy near Karachi where the French company producing the Agosta class submarines was assembling a submarine out of parts imported from France and training Pakistani Navy personnel in the assembly and ultimate indigenous production of submarines out of technology bought by Pakistan from the French company. The bus was to transport the French personnel to the work site as it was doing every day. According to the Karachi Police, the explosion appeared to have been caused by a suicide bomber sitting inside a car. Suspicion centred on Pakistani jihadi organizations associated with Al Qaeda.
June 14, 2002:The Marriott Hotel in Karachi suffered minor damages when a suicide car bomb exploded near the US Consulate in the same area. Eleven persons----mostly passers-by---were killed. The hotel was not targeted.
November 28,2002:A car bomb explosion outside the Jewish-owned Paradise Hotel in Mombasa caused a number of fatalities among Israeli tourists.
August 5, 2003: The Marriott Hotel in Jakarta was the direct target of an attack in which 14 people were killed. The pro-Al Qaeda Jemaah Islamiya was suspected.
October 28, 2004:The Marriott Hotel in Islamabad suffered some damage to its lobby, as a bomb went off inside the hotel. Fifteen persons were injured, including an American diplomat.
November 9,2005: The Al Qaeda in Iraq , headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (subsequently killed), reportedly claimed responsibility for blasts directed at three hotels in Amman in which about 60 innocent civilians, the majority of them Jordanian nationals, were killed
January 26, 2007: An alleged suicide bomber and a private security guard, who stopped him for questioning, were killed when the terrorist blew himself up in the parking lot of the Islamabad Marriott hotel.
September 20,2008:sixty persons---including some foreigners--- were reported to have been killed in the Islamabad Marriott Hotel when a truck bomber carrying about one ton of explosive blew the truck up, when he was stopped for questioning at the gate by the security guards. Al Qaeda operating through the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an anti-Shia organization, suspected.
November 26 to 29,2008:Six terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) of Pakistan, divided into two groups of four and two and carrying hand-held weapons, forced their way into the Taj Mahal Hotel and the Oberoi Hotel of Mumbai. They killed 36 persons in the Taj Mahal Hotel and 35 in the Oberoi Hotel before they were finally liquidated by the National Security Guards. Of the 71 persons killed by them in the two hotels, 20 were foreign nationals.
June 9,2009: At least 16 persons, including two foreigners (a Serb and a Filippino), were reported to have been killed and over 60 others injured when a group of three terrorists forced their way into the parking lot of the Pearl Continental Hotel of Peshawar at around 10-30 PM and blew up an explosive-laden truck. Two terrorists with hand-held weapons, who were believed to have been traveling in a car, engaged with the guards at the security barrier near the gate of the hotel in an exchange of fire and enabled the truck bomber drive into the parking lot. It was not known what happened to the two terrorists with hand-held weapons. They were not captured.