ISIS claims deadly Indonesia attacks

The Wall Street Journal reports: Multiple blasts and gunfire jolted the Indonesian capital Thursday in what officials said were coordinated Islamic State-linked terror attacks, killing seven and shattering a relatively peaceful period.

The dead comprised two civilians — a Canadian national and an Indonesian — and five terrorists, Indonesian police said.

The extremist group claimed responsibility for the attacks in an official Arabic-language statement distributed to its social media accounts, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors global jihadist activity.

“In a unique security operation, a group of Islamic State soldiers targeted a group of Crusader citizens who are fighting the Islamic State in Jakarta,” the statement said. “May the civilians of the Crusader alliance and those who protect them know that there is no safety for them in the lands of Muslims after today, God willing.”

The gun-and-bomb assaults struck in the heart of Jakarta’s downtown, popular with shoppers and tourists, when a suicide bomber entered a Starbucks and detonated a bomb, killing himself but no one else, police said.

Two more suicide bombers detonated blasts as motorists left their cars and joined hundreds fleeing the area. A Canadian citizen was shot near the Starbucks and an Indonesian was killed by shrapnel, police said.

Police shot and killed two other militants, leaving all five attackers dead, and said they found six small bombs after sweeping the area. Twenty civilians were injured, including a Dutch national and a German, officials said. [Continue reading…]

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Q&A: Why did terror hit Jakarta’s streets – and what happens next?

By Noor Huda Ismail, Monash University

Explosions and gunfire on Thursday left seven people dead in Jakarta. The blasts and gunfight between Indonesian police and the suspected attackers took place near the busy Sarinah shopping mall in central Jakarta. Indonesian President Joko Widodo spoke of “acts of terror”.

Five suspected attackers are reportedly among those killed. What affiliation if any they had to a terrorist group is currently unknown.

Since 2000, Islamic hardliners in Indonesia have carried out several high-profile bombing attacks. Notably, the Bali bombings in 2002 killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

The Conversation spoke to Noor Huda Ismail, a counter-terrorism analyst from Monash University, on the landscape of Indonesia’s terror groups and the threat the country faces.

[Read more…]

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Why Indonesia can’t stamp out fires that have cast a haze over South-East Asia

By Scott Edwards, University of Birmingham

The South-East Asian haze crisis has made Indonesia very unpopular with its neighbours. Yet its government can’t do much about it. Local elites, who call the shots in the forested regions, don’t want to tackle the crisis – and they’re able to stand up to national leaders in Jakarta.

The haze is caused by man-made forest fires, mostly on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan, often started to clear land for palm oil plantations. It’s an annual event, though this year El Niño has meant drier conditions and thus particularly bad haze – the worst since 1997.

During a major haze year, smoky air can harm the health of an estimated 75m people. It has been estimated that the fires will cost the Indonesian government $47 billion – and Singaporean and Malaysia’s will also be affected, thanks to airport and business closures and increased healthcare costs.

The fires have tripled Indonesia’s carbon emissions this year – in just a few months the fires alone have emitted more carbon than the annual emissions of Germany or Japan.

[Read more…]

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A great tract of Earth is on fire

George Monbiot writes: I’ve often wondered how the media would respond when eco-apocalypse struck. I pictured the news programmes producing brief, sensational reports, while failing to explain why it was happening or how it might be stopped. Then they would ask their financial correspondents how the disaster affected share prices, before turning to the sport. As you can probably tell, I don’t have an ocean of faith in the industry for which I work. What I did not expect was that they would ignore it.

A great tract of Earth is on fire. It looks as you might imagine hell to be. The air has turned ochre: visibility in some cities has been reduced to 30 metres. Children are being prepared for evacuation in warships; already some have choked to death. Species are going up in smoke at an untold rate. It is almost certainly the greatest environmental disaster of the 21st century – so far.

And the media? It’s talking about the dress the Duchess of Cambridge wore to the James Bond premiere, Donald Trump’s idiocy du jour and who got eliminated from the Halloween episode of Dancing with the Stars. The great debate of the week, dominating the news across much of the world? Sausages: are they really so bad for your health?

What I’m discussing is a barbecue on a different scale. Fire is raging across the 5,000km length of Indonesia. It is surely, on any objective assessment, more important than anything else taking place today. And it shouldn’t require a columnist, writing in the middle of a newspaper, to say so. It should be on everyone’s front page. It is hard to convey the scale of this inferno, but here’s a comparison that might help: it is currently producing more carbon dioxide than the US economy. And in three weeks the fires have released more CO2 than the annual emissions of Germany. [Continue reading…]

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Indonesia’s fires are driving climate, public health crises

Climate Central reports: Indonesia is in the grips of a double-headed climate and public health crisis as fires rage across the country. On Monday, the fires reached such a fever pitch that Indonesian Prime Minister Joko Widodo cut a trip to the U.S. short to return home and deal with the inferno that’s turning air toxic and putting more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than the U.S. on a daily basis.

Nearly 116,000 fires have been documented and air quality in Indonesia and its neighboring countries has suffered. The fires are a yearly occurrence, but this year is already the second-most prolific burn year on record and dry conditions driven by this year’s strong El Niño mean it still has a shot at the top spot. [Continue reading…]

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NSA: Australia and U.S. used climate change conference to spy on Indonesia

The Guardian reports: Australian spy agency the Defence Signals Directorate worked alongside America’s National Security Agency in mounting a massive surveillance operation on Indonesia during the United Nations climate change conference in Bali in 2007.

The newly-elected prime minister Kevin Rudd was making his first high-profile international foray at the conference, at the personal invitation of Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

A new document from whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals the intelligence agencies were trying to collect the phone numbers of Indonesian security officials.

It was not a particularly successful mission – the only tangible outcome the NSA and the DSD could boast of for all the expenditure of time, staff and other resources was the mobile phone number of Bali’s chief of police.

But its revelation is likely to exacerbate tensions between Australia and Indonesia, which flared after Fairfax newspapers revealed last week that Australian diplomatic posts across Asia were being used to intercept phone calls and data. [Continue reading…]

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