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Bombing at Marriott in Jakarta

Aired August 5, 2003 - 05:02   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: As I told you at the top of the show, we are following breaking news out of Indonesia this morning. There has been a bombing at a Marriott Hotel in Jakarta's central business district. It happened about three hours ago, which would put it at lunchtime in Jakarta. The hotel is quite popular with Westerners and there are deaths.
Let's go live to the phone lines and our Jakarta bureau chief Maria Ressa -- Maria, describe the scene for us.

MARIA RESSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, the front of the hotel looks like a shell of itself. You can -- the restaurant, which is at the ground floor level where the highest number of injuries have come from, is only, you can only see the concrete columns. It looks like a complete shell. Physical damage is extremely visible. The hotel has been evacuated.

As you said, this is an extremely popular hotel. It is Jakarta's newest hotel, popular with not just the diplomatic crowd, but also expatriates. It is an American owned chain, 33 floors, 333 rooms. Right now, police are saying that they believe it was a car bomb. It may have been in the front of the hotel in a taxi stand. Some are saying that it may have been in the basement. But the explosion was so loud and so large that it shattered the windows not just of the hotel itself, but of nearby buildings -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And, Maria, the Marriott is so associated with America, of course, as you said, it's an American owned hotel, I mean is it safe to say that this was no accident that this was targeted? We know that there are al Qaeda operatives in Indonesia.

RESSA: Absolutely, Carol. Well, we know for sure that part of the reason a lot of the diplomats and embassies used the Marriott Hotel is because it was thought to have some of the tightest security in Jakarta. In fact, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta uses this hotel for many of its functions.

As you've pointed out, there is an al Qaeda network, an extensive al Qaeda network that's active here. The largest and worst attack since 9/11 took place in Indonesia in Bali. The verdict for the trials of the Bali is expected to happen in just two days time. So there has been reports that some of this may be connected. Again, too soon to tell, though.

What we do know for sure is that there is an extensive network. Just less than two weeks ago, the Indonesian government warned that there may be future attacks linked to that group -- Carol. COSTELLO: Let's talk about fatalities now, Maria. We had heard at least eight are dead. Do we know how many Americans were staying in that hotel, if any?

RESSA: It's unclear right now. We do know, again, that this is a hotel that is used by many of the expatriates as well as the U.S. Embassy. So I do know that some, when there are guests here, they are billeted at that hotel.

It's a scene of mayhem. The nearby hospitals are full of the injured from there. Individually we are trying to get exactly how many people are in the hospitals now. We do expects -- authorities say that they expect the death toll to rise in the next hours.

COSTELLO: And we understand now, Maria, some 100 people are injured. Also, embassies are not far from this hotel, is that right?

RESSA: It's in the center of the business district of Jakarta. The last time Indonesia had something like this, there was an explosion that was, again, linked to the Jamia Islamia. This is al Qaeda's network in Southeast Asia. It took place at the Jakarta Stock Exchange building, again, during a particularly busy time, right near the end of the day.

This one has taken that one notch higher in the sense that the explosion happened very near the lobby and the two restaurants that are right on the ground floor. Again, most of the injuries have come from that area. It was an extremely busy lunch hour.

It's very difficult to tell you just exactly the scope of it because it has stopped business in Jakarta.

COSTELLO: And, Maria, you mentioned the Jamia Islamia, this terrorist group that has links to al Qaeda. There is a man on trial now. You mentioned him. The verdict is to come in in two days.

I just want to remind people what kind of man this is, because as he was being led into court, he was smiling and saying that he was glad that so many Westerners were killed in the Bali blats.

RESSA: This is an ideological battle for this man. His name is Amrozi. He was the first man arrested connected with the Bali bombing. He was arrested November 5, 2002, shortly, right after. And he and his brothers were involved in this. His brothers trained in Afghanistan. His brother claims to have met and trained with Osama bin Laden.

This is not a network that is just purely a terrorist. As we know from Amrozi's trial, he talked about how the West, and Americans in particular, were polluting Indonesia. For him and for his brothers, this is a war of -- a clash of civilizations and he believes, in one of his cases he said that, in this court appearance he said that he believed he needed to do this, this explosion in Bali, or lese Indonesia's people would be overrun by the West.

COSTELLO: Yes, and some 200 people died in that Bali blast. We are seeing pictures of that suspect right now, before the verdict is passed down.

How strong is this group inside of Indonesia right now?

RESSA: We know that their ambitions are on a grand scale. They operate out of four main countries in Southeast Asia -- Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Indonesia hosted training camps, as does the Philippines at this point in time. They do have an extensive network in Indonesia. Their goal was to take over and, in effect, topple the secular governments of these countries in the region and create an Islamic state.

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population and shortly after 9/11, it was very easy to radicalize the Muslims here because very few were taking a strong stand against radical Muslims and Osama bin Laden himself was seen in Indonesia as a hero. That position has changed somewhat with the Bali bombings, with that trial being televised nationwide.

And, again, as you pointed out, Amrozi, the man who is going -- whose verdict will be heard tomorrow, he was known as the smiling bomber because he did laugh at the fact that he and his brothers were able to kill so many Westerners.

COSTELLO: Yes, and we should remind people that Indonesia has one of the largest -- it is the largest Muslim population in the world.

I want to go back to what's happened this morning, though, and the bombing. We're seeing more scenes coming out of Jakarta right now. Are the hospitals overrun? Tell us how effective the emergency personnel are there.

RESSA: This has, this isn't the first time it's happened here. They are -- they have coped with a disaster of this magnitude before. Again, this one a little bit worse than the Jakarta Stock Exchange bombing, which happened in 2000.

Again, even the bombing as a modus operandi is something that Indonesians are familiar with. From 1999 to 2000, there were numerous bombings. In one month I counted something like 15 bombings, post the fall of Suharto.

What happened when Jamia Islamia took control of these things was that the explosions became larger and what we saw in the Christmas 2000 bombings was the group actually trying to put 38 bombs, set off 38 bombs simultaneously. Again, setting of simultaneous bomb attacks on purely civilian populations. This, again, is an attack that has all the hallmarks of an al Qaeda move -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Maria Ressa, we're going to let you break away from us so you can gather more information. Again, a suicide bombing apparently at an American hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, at a Marriott Hotel there. We believe eight are dead, maybe more, and more than 100 injured. We don't know if the deaths involve Americans. Maria Ressa will go find out that for us and she'll get back to us throughout the hour and in the next hour and all day for us on CNN. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT

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