Earlier today, at least two civilians were killed and over 20 injured in coordinated attacks in central Jakarta. One of the dead was identified as a Canadian citizen and four of the injured are believed to be foreigners. According to authorities, seven militants carried out shootings and suicide bombings at several locations on one of the city’s main thoroughfares, Jalan Thamrin, a busy shopping district near foreign embassies and a United Nations office. Approximately six explosions and gunfire occurred at a police traffic post and outside of a Starbucks in the area. The gunmen eventually fled to the nearby Djakarta Theater, where they exchanged gunfire with police and detonated additional explosives. Police reportedly captured two of the attackers alive, killing the other five. The Aamaq News Agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), reported that the terror group was responsible for the attack. ISIL later claimed responsibility for the attack in an official statement posted online.
Today’s incident marks the first time ISIL has carried out an attack in Southeast Asia. Indonesian officials believe that the attack was masterminded by an Indonesian citizen, Bahrun Naim, currently fighting with ISIL in Raqqa, Syria. Naim is the leader of an ISIL-affiliated, Southeast Asian militant group called Katibah Nusantara. He was imprisoned on weapons charges in Indonesia in 2012, and was recently linked to a blog post entitled “Lessons from the Paris Attacks,” which encouraged Indonesians to plan similar attacks. Furthermore, there has been an uptick in terror arrests in Indonesia this month, and the country was on high alert due to threats surrounding the New Year holiday.
The attack in Jakarta is the latest in a string of ISIL-linked incidents, including the coordinated terror attacks in Paris in November and the suicide bombing in Istanbul earlier this week. In all of the recent attacks, militants have used firearms and bombings to target high-traffic, public spaces that are often frequented by tourists. In response to the attack, the U.S. State Department issued an emergency message warning U.S. citizens to avoid the area around the Sari Pan Pacific Hotel and Srinah Plaza on Jalan Sudirman Thamrin in Jakarta. However, in the long-term, there is potential for additional ISIL activity in Southeast Asia, given the group’s effort to recruit and motivate militants in the region.