The blast shook buildings for blocks around the 33-story American-owned hotel, which is located in the heart of the Indonesian capital’s business district and commonly used by foreign travelers and nearby embassies.
“People were screaming, panicking,” a man who was having lunch in an adjacent building told the Associated Press. “I thought it was an earthquake.”
“It was panic. Mad panic,” Stephen Mellor, a foreign resident who was parking his car near the hotel at the time of the blast, told Reuters.
“The police and paramedics did what they could, but they seemed overwhelmed. People were almost hijacking cars in desperation and piling the injured in them to take to hospital,” Mellor recounted.
Although initial estimates put the death toll from the blast at 14, Indonesian authorities later revised the figure down to 10 killed.
A statement on the Marriott hotel’s main web site said that there had been an explosion in the vicinity of its Jakarta hotel and that the company was closely monitoring the situation.
“We have evacuated the hotel, and a number of people have been taken to the hospital,” the statement said.
President Megawati Sukarnoputri visited the site of the bombing Tuesday night but made no comments to reporters.
Jakarta’s governor said there is a “strong possibility” that the attack was the work of a suicide bomber and Defense Minister Matori Abdul Djalil called it an act of terrorism, according to media reports.
Police have told news agencies that a Dutch banking executive was among the dead in the Jakarta attack, while four Singaporeans, two Americans, two Australians and a New Zealander were among those wounded. Several of the dead were reportedly taxi drivers waiting in the same area as the car bomb.
Wednesday’s Singapore Straits Times reported the Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, blamed for a similar bomb attack in Bali in 2002 that killed 202, claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack.
“This is a message for … all our enemies that, if they execute any of our Muslim brothers, we will continue this campaign of terror in Indonesia and the region,” the paper quoted an unnamed Jemaah Islamiyah operative as saying.
The Bali attacks were linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network through their reported ties with Jemaah Islamiyah, which is also active in the Philippines and Malaysia.
Tuesday’s hotel blast comes two days before a court delivers the first verdict in the high profile trials of Muslim militants accused of participating in the Bali bombings.
In a speech last Friday, President Megawati denounced what she called the “blind fanaticism” of Muslim militants accused in the Bali attacks.
She also took the unusual step of warning that Indonesia is not just a target of international terrorist attacks but is also home to those who would commit such acts.
“Like it or not, believe it or not, from the cracking of this terror act we comprehend that our country not only has become a target of international terrorism but also is a source of a part of the plotting, perpetrating and supporting actors,” she said.