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20
Apr '99

Explosion rocks Istiqlal Mosque


A powerful blast rocked the basement of Istiqlal GrandMosque, the largest mosque in the region, in the heart of the capital on Monday, injuring at least four people performing their late afternoon prayers.

Dozens of glass windows from offices of several Moslem-based organizations, including the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), were shattered. The explosion, which occurred at 3:20 p.m, also fractured walls of the 38-year-old mosque.

Shortly after the explosion, tight security measures were taken at most major houses of worship in and around the city.

The capital was tense as many shopping centers and entertainment spots closed earlier than usual. Major thoroughfares were deserted.

Activities in the downtown Chinese area of Mangga Besar, home to scores of night spots and Chinese food stalls, were not disturbed.

President B.J. Habibie appealed to the public for calm and urged the community not to be provoked by the incident.

“The President said this is an attempt to create disorder. This (explosion) seeks to create religious and ethnic conflict,” State Minister of Investment Hamzah Haz said after meeting with Habibie.

Hamzah, who is also chairman of the Moslem-backed United Development Party (PPP), condemned the attack as a “brutal” act.

Two of the people injured in the explosion were identified as Amir Fatah and Rahmat Permana, marriage counseling staff for Moslem couples.

They were hit by shattered glass as they were performing their ashar (afternoon) prayer near their office in the basement of the building.

Both were rushed to Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital but were discharged later in the afternoon.

According to Imam Asmar Shodiqin of the mosque, the explosion occurred assome 750 people were also performing their ashar prayer on the first floor of the six-story mosque.

“We’d just finished the first raka’at (unit) when we heard the blast,” Asmar said.

Chief of Jakarta Police Maj. Gen. Noegroho Djajoesman said the explosion was not serious.

He said the explosion type remained under investigation.

However, a source close to the investigation said the explosive device did not use a timer or detonator.

“The explosive materials were shattered during the blast and there are noremains,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

Governor Sutiyoso, who also visited the site immediately after the blast,said: “I see it’s the work of irresponsible people”.

As of last night, police acknowledged they had few leads in their investigation.

A half consumed bottle of tea was seized by police as evidence. The contents are believed to have been drunk by the suspects.

A mosque parking attendant, Nur Akhmad, was taken to a nearby police subprecinct for questioning. He was believed to be the main witness in the incident, Asmar said.

He said Nur Akhmad saw two men wearing blue jeans hastily run to the parking lot shortly after the explosion.

He said Nur tried to apprehend one of them but failed as the man was too strong.

“According to him, the two mysterious men took an RX-King motorcycle fromthe parking lot and fled.”

From outside the mosque, damage from the blast could not be seen.

But at basement level windows and doors of at least 21 offices were shattered.

An air conditioner on the ceiling between the office of MUI and the office of the Indonesian Islamic Women’s Organization Conference was also damaged.

The mosque, which has a capacity for 100,000 people, was designed by the late Frederik Silaban, a Christian.

In 1978, a serious blast hit the mosque and an investigation proved that trinitroluene was used as the main material for the explosion.

Built on a 12-hectare plot of land, the mosque is located close to the Cathedral Church. Many state religious events are held at the mosque. The poor and homeless are frequently found in the vicinity, as the mosque provides free meals.

In past months, the country has been hit by massive unrest, allegedly sparked by ethnic and religious conflict in several provinces. Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands of others evacuated to avoid clashes. Four days ago, an explosion also rocked the three-story Hayam Wuruk Plazashopping center in West Jakarta, only minutes before an audacious armed robbery attempt at a nearby branch of Bank Central Asia (BCA). A security guard at the bank was killed during the robbery.

Noegroho said the two blasts were connected.

A few hours after the explosion at Istiqlal Mosque, many organizations were urging people, particularly Moslems, to calm down and refrain from taking revenge on other parties.

The calls were made by Minister of Religions A. Malik Fadjar, the PPP, MUI, Justice and United Party (PKP), Moslem Students Association and the Youth of the National Mandate Holders.

Minister Fadjar strongly condemned the blast and said the explosion was aterrorist attack and was related to politics.

MUI chairman Ali Yafie called all Moslems to allow security authorities to handle the case.

Hadimulyo, a PPP executive, commented: “The pattern is an inheritance from the New Order”.

Julius Cardinal Darmaatmadja from the Jakarta Archdiocese expressed concern over the incident and hoped security authorities would make a rapidarrest of those responsible for the attack.

Chairman of the Jakarta Provincial Elections Committee (PPD I) Djafar Badjeber, who is also head of the PPP Jakarta chapter, said: “(The blast) must be an attempt to obstruct the June 7 general election”.

Sumber : (emf/prb/ind/jun/01) The Jakarta Post, Jakarta


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