BREAKING: Six Reported Dead as Explosions, Gunfire Rock Central Jakarta i

Dead bodies are seen as Indonesian police hold rifles while walking behind a car for protection in Jakarta on Thursday. Several explosions went off and gunfire broke out in the center of the Indonesian capital on Thursday and police said they suspected a suicide bomber was responsible for at least one the blasts. (Reuters Photo/Beawiharta)

By : Jakarta Globe | on 11:38 AM January 14, 2016
Category : News, Featured, Terrorism

Updated at 1:17 p.m. to add embassy statements 

Jakarta. At least six people are reported dead in a suspected series of bombings and gunfire outside the Sarinah department store on Jalan M.H. Thamrin in Central Jakarta on Thursday.

The first explosion was reported at 10:50 a.m. in the car park of the Starbucks at the Skyline building adjacent to Sarinah, and was followed by six more blasts over the next 10 minutes, including at the police post at the intersection of Jalan Thamrin and Jalan K.H. Wahid Hasyim, according to witnesses.

Police have sealed off the area and were currently engaged in a sporadic firefight that lasted until about 12:36 p.m. It is still not clear who the perpetrators are. Authorities have cordoned off much of Jalan Thamrin.

Police said they were still looking for suspected gunmen presumably holed up in the Skyline building.

Police were also seen entering the McDonald's restaurant at the Sarinah building at around 12:15 p.m., with gun shots still ringing out in the area.

The Starbucks, located in an area that is frequented by foreigners as well as Indonesian office workers, was the target of what appeared to be a series of possible suicide bombings earlier in the morning. Media reports suggested grenades might also have been used in the attack.

Six people are reported to have died in the explosions and shootings, including a police officer whom witnesses said was shot by a gunman. A police spokesman the perpetrators were on foot and on motorcycles, but could not say how many of them there were.

Another police officer said there were indications that some of the shots were fired by snipers in the office buildings in the area, although this could not be confirmed.

One shot was heard at around 12:16 pm, minutes after State Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Sutiyoso arrived at the scene. This was followed 10 minutes later by the arrival of two police helicopters hovering over the office buildings in the area, possibly scanning for snipers.

A second shot was heard at 12:36 p.m., although it was unclear who fired them or what the target was. Sutiyoso was not hit and is still in the area, officials said.

President Joko Widodo has denounced the attacks and said the country would not be defeated by acts of terror.

“We all grieve at the loss of life from this incident,” he said in a statement in Cirebon, West Java. “I have ordered the police chief and the chief security minister to chase down and capture [the perpetrators], those who were [involved] in this incident and those in their networks.

Joko also called on the public to remain calm, saying that “As a nation, a people and a society, we cannot be defeated or made afraid by acts of terror such as this.” He added he would return to Jakarta immediately.

Western embassies in Jakarta were quick to issue warnings as events unfolded.

The US Embassy advised its citizens in Jakarta "to shelter in place and monitor local and international media until the situation becomes clearer."

Quentin Biehler, first secretary at the French Embassy, which is located near the site of the explosions, told reporters that no staff members had been hurt. "Until now we're asking all embassy staff to remain vigilant but calm," he said.

The Dutch Embassy "strongly recommended" people to avoid traveling. "When you are in an area where the explosions take place, you are strongly advised to avoid large crowds," the embassy added in a statement on its website.

Details about the attack remain scant, but the Jakarta Globe will continue to update the story as more information comes in.

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