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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        18  March 2011

Book bombs make Indonesians jittery

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Indonesia has been on edge after public figures from wildly different walks of life were sent bombs concealed in books, followed up by a string of threats.

On Thursday, another of the explosive parcels - apparently sent on Tuesday like the others - was discovered at the home of Indonesian musician Ahmad Dhani before being defused by police.

In the first incident, a book bomb was sent to Liberal Islamic Network co-founder Ulil Abshar Abdalla in Utan Kayu, East Jakarta . A police officer attempting to defuse the bomb accidentally detonated it, causing him to lose his hand, and injuring two others.

Two more packages was sent to Comr. Gen. Gories Mere, a former key officer of the National Police's elite counterterrorism unit Densus 88 who now heads the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) and Yapto Suryosumarno, chairman of the Pemuda Pancasila [Pancasila Youth] organization. Both were disarmed without incident by the anti-bomb squad.

And in what later turned out to be a hoax, a bomb threat was also directed against Plaza Senayan mall in South Jakarta on Thursday.

Surya Wirawan, an IT worker for Chevron, which has an office directly behind the mall, said he panicked when he heard of the threat.

"I walked outside the office and saw that there were a lot of police gathered around the mall," Surya said. "I saw many workers with fear on their faces trying to run away and avoid the area."

The occupants of the Utan Kayu complex received yet another scare on Thursday, when a package sent to the Tempo magazine office set off an alarm.

"It took us by surprise, we panicked. The police officers set up a police line around the package," said Rezky Reza, a reporter from Tempo. The package was later found to contain only books.

Surabaya residents were also shaken on Thursday after a pizzeria on Jalan Manyar Kertoarjo received a bomb threat. Teams sent to comb the area found no explosives.

Social media sites were abuzz on Thursday as many people expressed their fears online.

Twitter user Rizky Febriyanti posted: "Now I'm afraid of receiving a package, especially if it resembles a book, and I am also afraid ... after being told that a bomb has exploded in a mall. I'd rather stay home."

Agria Ayu, who works at a cargo firm, tweeted: "This scares me a lot, I receive so many packages in my office every day.

"It is possible that one of those packages contains a bomb. Now I work with fear."

Jakarta Police spokesman Chief Comr. Baharuddin Jafar urged people to report any suspicious packages but added that they should leave efforts to defuse them to the bomb squad.

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