Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN)Attackers struck in the middle of the day Thursday, in the middle of a busy central Jakarta commercial hub — killing at least two, wounding 19 and raising alarms about terrorism once more, this time in the world’s most populous Muslim country.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in an official statement posted online by the terror organization, which was translated by the monitoring group Flashpoint and verified by CNN.
Jakarta police chief Tito Karnavian likewise blamed the Syria-based group and singled out a militant named Bahrun Naim, who he said plotted the attack to assert himself among various figures competing to lead ISIS in Southeast Asia. Police spokesman Anton Charliyan said Naim is in Syria but sent money back home to Indonesia to finance the attack.
One foreign national and one Indonesian make up the dead, authorities said. Charliyan said 24 people, including at least one more foreigner, were wounded.
The Jakarta carnage, in an area frequented by foreigners, came 6,000 miles from and two days after ISIS boasted about a suicide bombing in the heart of Istanbul. That attack in Sultanahmet Square, between the popular Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque tourist attractions, killed 10 German visitors.
CNN security analyst Bob Baer likened the Jakarta attack to the November 13 Paris massacre in which terrorists linked to ISIS struck several locations at the same time. Yet the number of dead was nowhere near the toll of 130 in France, with Clarke Jones, a counterterrorism expert at Australian National University, calling it “fairly amateurish … with hand grenades and firearms.”
Another expert, Sajjan Gohel of the Asia-Pacific Foundation think tank, said it was particularly worrisome that this happened in the capital of Indonesia.
It was the first major attack in Jakarta since the 2009 simultaneous attacks on the J.W. Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels, which left seven people dead. Since then, the secular government has made major inroads beating back terror groups in an Asian nation where about 87% of its roughly 255 million people are Muslim.
“It’s concerning (to have) yet one more day and another attack in another part of the world,” Gohel told CNN. “And one fears that this is potentially becoming the new normal where ISIS affiliates carry out attacks independently from the leadership based in Syria.”
Who could be behind the Jakarta bombings?