Fri, 15 Sep 2000

New Order agents 'might be behind bomb blasts'

JAKARTA (JP): The government pledged on Thursday to get to the bottom of a series of bomb attacks here and was cautiously suggesting that remnants of the New Order regime or wayward military personnel might be behind the senseless acts.

Attorney General Marzuki Darusman told reporters after a biweekly Cabinet meeting that President Abdurrahman Wahid has instructed the Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Adm. Widodo A.S. to help police in investigating the cases as the government felt that the military had been uncooperative.

"The government feels that clearly there have been obstacles in the sense that police investigations (over a series of bomb blasts) had been discontinued when they were about to conclude that the (military) apparatus might be involved ... they are beyond the reach of the police," Marzuki said.

"We know the source of the problem and those who have been hampering the investigations. The TNI chief has been authorized to break through this (barrier) and to resolve the problem, institutionally," he added.

However, Marzuki stopped short of declaring that military personnel were behind the bomb attacks.

Later in the day, Cabinet Secretary Marsilam Simanjuntak quoted the President as saying that those responsible for the blasts would be prosecuted and that "nobody is above the law".

Coordinating Minister for the Economy Rizal Ramli described the bombing as a "barbaric act" which was aimed at sabotaging the country's economic recovery.

Separately, one of Soeharto's lawyers, Juan Felix Tampubolon, said on Thursday:

"I'm confident that my client (Soeharto) was not behind this (bombing). Anyone can point the finger at my client, but if the police were to think on the same lines as them I don't think it's wise."

"The police must get hold of the bombers first."

Another of Soeharto's lawyers, Muhammad Assegaf, said there are rumors that certain parties were taking advantage of Soeharto's trial to conduct terrorist acts and "put the blame on Pak Harto."

"Anybody can say anything. Even in Caday's (Philippine Ambassador) case, they were saying that the Cendana (Soeharto's residence) family was behind it," Assegaf said.

The U.S. government condemned the bombing and called upon the perpetrators of this act of terrorism "to cease their unspeakably cruel acts."

"If asked, we stand ready to assist the Indonesian government in trying to solve this crime," the U.S. embassy said in a statement made available to the Post.

Jakartans were horrified on Wednesday when a powerful blast rocked the 34-story Jakarta Stock Exchange (JSX) building in the busy Central Business District which is in the heart of the capital, in the afternoon.

The blast killed at least 10 people and injured over 30 others. But police kept insisting that 15 men died in the blast even though they failed to produce the bodies.

"Ten dead bodies were found in the smoke-filled underground parking lot later in the night while the other five died at the Pertamina Hospital, after receiving emergency treatment, shortly after the explosion," Jakarta Police spokesman Supt. Nur Usman said on Thursday.

A senior officer at the National Police Forensic Laboratory (Puslabfor) said the blast was caused by a bomb containing over one kilogram of TNT, the highly flammable toxic compound trinitrotoluene.

Another forensic officer, Supt. Marsudi, said the bomb was placed at the rear of a car. The car was split into two by the blast. The rear side of the car he said, was completely damaged, while the front part was blown six meters away.

The explosion left a hole, 60 centimeters in diameter, in the floor of the P2 parking lot where the car was believed to have been parked. Another one-square-meter hole was found in the floor of the P1 parking lot, which is one level above.

By Thursday evening, police said that at least 81 cars, mostly sedans, had been completely damaged by the explosion. Some 110 other vehicles were partly damaged.

Nur said the building, except for the parking lots, is now safe. A joint forensic team is still working among the debris, looking for more possible clues.

The Capital Market Supervisory Agency chief, Herwidayatmo, said the loss suffered by JSX in the blast was not so much in material terms as it was on its image because the stock exchange portrays the country's economic state.

Chief commissioner of JSX, Erry Riyana Hardjapamekas, said the stock exchange had lost administration fees worth some Rp 300 billion (US$33.3 million).

Separately, PT. Procon Indah, which manages the JSX building refused to disclose their estimated loss, saying that the insurance company is still calculating the damage.

The company's staffer Carrey Alam said the management has decided to close the building until Monday due to the serious damage to its sewer system, forcing the JSX to suspend its trading on Thursday and Friday.

Police spokesman Nur Usman said his office has questioned five witnesses over the incident, namely, Darmus, a retired military officer; Kusnadi and Haryadi, both entrepreneurs; Oding Supriyadi, a security officer of Danamon Bank; and Sahat Siahaan, a JSX driver.

"The witnesses said that about 15 minutes before the blast, a Toyota Kijang was seen being parked and the driver then left the building immediately," Nur said.

On Thursday, at least two offices in the Central Business District received bomb threats, that turned out to be hoaxes. (prb/byg/dja/ylt)