Two details during the run-up to the twin and nearly simultaneous suicide bombings that struck the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels on Friday in Jakarta give indications of how the attack proved successful, according to Time magazine.
On Saturday, a police spokesman said that one of the terrorists carrying a bag set off the metal detectors at the Marriott. He told security it was his laptop computer. They let him through.
The security lapse was a big mistake: the bag contained bomb-making materials, which were eventually assembled in room 1808. According to Lt. John Daly of The New York Police Department, who was dispatched to Jakarta to investigate the bombings, the operation was an "inside job," reports the Associated Press. The terrorists stayed at the Marriott for two days before blowing themselves up.
Then right before the attack on the Marriott, the suicide bomber strolled into the lobby with a backpack strapped to his chest while rolling another suitcase behind him. A security supervisor engaged the man and asked him where he was going with a backpack strapped to his chest. The man replied he was dropping something off for his boss. Closed-circuit television footage replayed the suicide bombers final moments as he walked through the lobby, followed by an explosion and the room filling with smoke.
Despite 8 dead and more than 50 wounded, Bruce McIndoe, president of iJet, an Annapolis, Maryland-based security and intelligence firm, told USA Today that hotel security did its job.
"(With) the new security procedures, all they could do is get suicide bombers in and blow out some windows," he said. "You can't stop it — there's no 100% foolproof way. But they've minimized the impact. It was a fairly sophisticated operation. (The terrorists) put a lot of time and effort into this, with very little outcome (in terms of ) death and destruction."
The Marriott had been attacked before in 2003, when a suicide-car bomber killed 12 and wounded 150.
McIndoe told USA Today that his firm had previously assessed security at the two hotels and both received high marks. He also noted that tourists visiting Jakarta have more to fear from hotel fires than terrorists bombing or storming the properties. While assessing 52 hotels in Jakarta, iJet found that 21 did not pass its base-line safety criteria. Of those that failed, none were international brand names, like the Marriott and the Ritz-Carleton.
♦ Photo of J.W. Marriott suicide bombing in Jakarta by themillersofliverpool/Flickr