Update 5:15 P.M.: More details have emerged on the Jakarta hotel attacks. From the AP:
Friday's attackers evaded hotel security and smuggled explosives into the Marriott by posing as guests and assembling the bombs in room 1808, where an undetonated device was later found by police.
"They had been using the room as their 'command post' since July 15, and today they were supposed to check out," police chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri said. At the Marriott, such a "deluxe" room, with marble-decorated bathrooms and plush furnishings, goes for about $200 a night.
The blast occurred as the Marriott was hosting a regular business meeting organized by the consultancy firm CastleAsia, said the group, which is headed by an American.
Update 3:02 P.M.: The blasts in Jakarta are being felt around the world, evidenced by the New York Police Department's stepped up security at luxury hotels Friday, according to Reuters:
"There's no information of a similar threat to New York, but it's our standard practice now to take such precautions," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in a statement.
New York -- home to Wall Street, the Broadway theater district and other attractions that draw millions of tourists and businesspeople every year -- has been highly attuned to security threats since the September 11 attacks in 2001 that killed 2,749 people at the World Trade Center site.
Update 1:32 P.M.: MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, speaking with Bangkok correspondent Ian Williams this afternoon, discussed more details of the attacks; namely, how did the attackers bypass security, which is a standard for many luxury hotels in Indonesia, including the two which were bombed? The current theory among investigators, according to Williams, is that the parts for the bombs were smuggled in and assembled once inside, most likely in an 18th floor room. More to come on this...
Update 12:37 P.M. EST: An eye witness speaks to Al Jazeera about the bombings,
Update 11:35 A.M. EST: Via CNN, a camera in the JW Marriott caught one of the bombings on tape. It shows a man wheeling in a suitcase and wearing a suit, followed by the blast.
Update 10:46 A.M. EST: Via the AP, President Obama publicly condemned the attacks in Jakarta, describing them as "outrageous".
President Barack Obama is condemning a pair of suicide bombings at American hotels in Indonesia on Friday.
Investigators say the attacks at two hotels in Jakarta killed eight people and wounded more than 50.
Obama says the U.S. government "stands ready" as a friend and partner to help its ally in the effort to combat extremism and to recover from these "outrageous attacks."
The president also extended his condolences to all the victims and their loved ones.
Update 10:13 A.M. EST: MSNBC just reported that, among those injured, 8 were American. The number is slightly higher than the 3 believed to be injured, reported earlier by USA Today.
Update 9:53 A.M. EST: The Council on Foreign Relations has an overview of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the assumed perpetrator of the twin bombings in Jakarta.
Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) is a militant Islamist group active in several Southeast Asian countries that seeks to establish a pan-Islamic state across much of the region. Jemaah Islamiyah ("Islamic Organization" in Arabic) is alleged to have attacked or plotted against U.S. and Western targets in Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines. JI's most notorious attack occurred in 2002 when three bombs were detonated on the Indonesian island of Bali, a beachfront city and international tourist destination. The most recent attack believed to have been carried out by JI operatives came on October 1, 2005, when a series of suicide bombings killed twenty people and wounded 129 in Bali. After the 2002 Bali attack, the United States-which suspects the group of having ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network-designated Jemaah Islamiyah a foreign terrorist organization.
And Al Jazeera has a timeline of Indonesia's legal and military battle against the group, with the most recent events being:
November 8, 2008: After a series of appeals and stays of execution, Indonesia executes three men convicted of carrying out the 2002 Bali bombings.
June 2007: Indonesian police arrest Abu Dujana, alleged to be a top JI commander, along with seven other suspected JI leaders in raids on Java.
Update 9:48 A.M. EST: Despite the deadly attacks in Jakarta, Indonesian and Asian financial markets were unaffected as investors focus on economic factors rather than social or political turmoil, the Wall Street Journal reports:
The main stock index initially fell as much as 2.6%, eventually closing down 0.6% at 2106.35 points, off a 2063.044 intraday low, but also down from a 2126.339 intraday high.
Economists and analysts said investors were likely to keep their focus on the country's economic fundamentals and political stability.
Update 8:57 A.M. EST: An extremely prescient report Thursday from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think tank, predicted that internal strife among the leadership of the al-Qaeda affiliate group, Jemaah Islamiyah, would lead to new attacks, ending a four-year lull, the AP is reporting.
"However, the emergence of hardened, experienced militants from the conflict in the southern Philippines and the recent release of JI cadres from prisons in Indonesia, who have become ostracized by the mainstream JI group, are breeding a new generation of radicalized fringe groups," the paper said.
"There is evidence that some of these individuals are gravitating toward hard-line groups who continue to advocate al-Qaida-style attacks against Western targets," it concluded.
One of the authors, national security project director Carl Ungerer, said he believed young dissident members of Jemaah Islamiyah could be behind Friday's attacks.
Mr. Ungerer also spoke to Voice of America, saying, "Many of the younger JI members have not been reformed. They do not accept either the rehabilitation program that has been offered to them in the prison system or the kind of traditionalist view amongst JI that there should be a cessation of the bombing campaign. They do not accept this. They are gravitating towards these more hardline elements. They are more interested in continuing the armed struggle."
Update 8:55 A.M. EST:
Update 8:49 A.M. EST: Though police issued a statement suggesting the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers, AFP reports that an undetonated explosive device was found in one of the rooms of the Marriott, suggesting the attack may have sought to use both planted bombs as well as suicide attackers.
Update 8:31 A.M. EST: Police believe the bombings were carried out by two suicide bombers, but are now searching for additional culprits while investigators attempt to identify the bombers from their remains, in addition to four additional, unidentified bodies, the AP reports.
Though Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says it is still too early to know what group is responsible for the bombings, most initial signs tend to point to the al-Qaeda affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah, which was blamed for a 2003 bombing of the very same Marriott, according to the Washington Post.
----- Video is coming in of the twin bombings in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, which killed at least eight people and left over 50 wounded, including 18 foreigners, at two hotels on Thursday.
Watch this video, which appears to be from Indonesian TV, and shows the extent of the damage to the two hotels--Ritz-Carlton and Marriott--including blown-out windows and scattered debris and glass:
Here is another video of the bombings' aftermath, showing scenes of bystanders watching police investigators comb the scene for clues:
------ Original Associated Press report:
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Explosions ripped through two luxury hotels in Jakarta Friday, killing eight and wounding at least 50 more, ending a four-year lull in terror attacks in the world's most populous Muslim nation. At least 18 foreigners were among the dead and wounded.
The blasts at the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels, located side-by-side in an upscale business district in the capital, blew out windows and scattered debris and glass across the street, kicking up a thick plume of smoke. Facades of both hotels were reduced to twisted metal. An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw bodies being shuttled away in police trucks.
Police said they were investigating whether the blasts, detonated inside cafes in each hotel, were caused by suicide bombers, planted explosives or a combination of both. Several of the bombing suspects were believed to have been staying at the Marriott.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the attack was carried out by a "terrorist group" and vowed to arrest the perpetrators. He said it was too early to say if the Southeast Asian Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, blamed for past attacks in Indonesia, including a 2003 bombing at the Marriott, was responsible.
"Those who carried out this attack and those who planned it will be arrested and tried according to the law," a somber-looking Yudhoyono told a news conference.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the bombings as reflecting "the viciousness of violent extremists" and said they "remind us that the threat of terrorism remains very real." She said the United States was prepared to provide assistance if requested by the Indonesian government. The European Union condemned the blasts as "brutal."
The Marriott was hit first, followed by the blast at the Ritz two minutes later. The attacks came just two weeks after a presidential vote expected to re-elect Yudhoyono who has been credited with stabilizing a nation previously wracked by militancy.
Theo Sambuaga, chairman of the parliamentary security commission, said "there are indications of suicide bombs" at the two hotels. "That is being investigated."
But top anti-terror official Ansaad Mbai told AP it was too early to conclude suicide bombers were responsible.
Jakarta police chief Maj. Gen. Wahyono said the suspects of the Marriott bombing stayed on the 18th floor of the hotel where un-detonated explosives were found after Friday's twin explosions.
"There were several perpetrators," he told reporters. "They were disguised as guests and stayed in room 1808."
Security Minister Widodo Adi Sucipto told reporters at the scene the hotel blasts happened at 7:45 a.m. and 7:47 a.m. (0045 GMT, 8:45 p.m. EDT) and that "high explosives were used." He said eight people were killed and 50 wounded.
Alex Asmasubrata, who was jogging nearby, said he walked into the Marriott before emergency services arrived and "there were bodies on the ground, one of them had no stomach," he said. "It was terrible." Anti-terror forces with automatic weapons were rushed to the site, and authorities blocked access to the hotels in a district also home to foreign embassies.
"This destroys our conducive situation," Sucipto said, referring to the nearly four years since a major terrorist attack in Indonesia -- a triple suicide bombing at restaurants at the resort island of Bali that killed 20 people.
The security minister and police said a New Zealander was among those killed, and that 17 other foreigners were among the wounded, including nationals from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea the U.S. and Britain.
The dead New Zealander was identified by his employer as Timothy David Mackay, 62, who worked for cement products manufacturer PT Holcim Indonesia. He was reportedly attending a business meeting at the Marriott Hotel when the explosions occurred.
Noel Clay, a U.S. State Department spokesman in Washington, said that several American citizens were among the injured. Three Americans were listed as patients at the Metropolitan Medical Center hospital.
Manchester United football team canceled a planned visit to Indonesia. The team had been scheduled to stay at the Ritz on Saturday and Sunday nights for a friendly match against the Indonesian All Stars, the Indonesian Football association said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna said the likely perpetrators were from the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah.
"The only group with the intention and capability to mount attacks upon Western targets in Jemaah Islamiyah. I have no doubt Jemaah Islamiyah was responsible for this attack," he said.
There has been a massive crackdown in recent years by anti-terror officials in Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim nation of 235 million, but Gunaratna said the group was "still a very capable terrorist organization." Police have detained most of the key figures in the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah, and rounded up hundreds of other sympathizers and lesser figures.
But Gunaratna said that radical ideologues sympathetic to JI were still able to preach extremism in Indonesia, helping provide an infrastructure that could support terrorism.
Government spokesman Dino Patti Djalal told CNN the scene of the blasts were "eerie," when he arrived. "The bodies I saw, some were being collected, some were on the floor," he said. "What we know, of course, is this was a coordinated attack."
When asked if Jemaah Islamiyah was behind the attack, Djalal said: "We always knew there are terrorists out there. But we've had a number of very good successes; no major attacks since the Bali bombings."
He was referring to the October 2002 bombings of two Bali nightclubs that killed some 202 people, many of them foreign tourists.
"This is a blow to us," Djalal said, but said the government would find those behind the attacks.
"The president has built his reputation on ... anti-terrorism policies," he said. "Make no mistake, he will hunt whoever is behind this."
Because of past attacks, most major hotels in Jakarta take security precautions, such as checking incoming vehicles and requiring visitors to pass through metal detectors. Still, international hotels make attractive targets, since the nature of their business requires them to be relatively open and accessible.
On Friday, Australia and New Zealand updated their travel advisories, which had already warned against unnecessary travel to Indonesia because of the risk of terrorism.
"We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Indonesia due to the very high threat of terrorist attack," the Australian Foreign Ministry said on its Web site. Those in Indonesia were warned to exercise "extreme caution."
New Zealand urged its citizens in Indonesia to keep a low profile.
Britain also updated its travel warning, though it did not raise its alert level.