Indonesia: Ambon bomb blast aimed to frighten

M. Azis Tunny, The Jakarta Post, Ambon

Wednesday's bomb blast at Mardika bus terminal in the Maluku capital of Ambon, which injured six people, was designed to terrorize locals who lives have only recently returned to normal after years of conflict, a police officer said Thursday.

Maluku Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Tomy Napitupulu said all six people were taken to Alfatah Hospital. Just one victim whose leg was injured in the blast remains in hospital.

Although motivation for the bombing has not been established, the explosion was clearly designed to frighten the public, Tomy said. "Those responsible want to create a state of fear," he said.

Police have so far questioned 12 witnesses but do not have any suspects.

Injured victim Siti Hasna Umarela said from her hospital bed that just before the bomb went off she saw a man in a white shirt sitting at the explosion site. "Because it was dark, I could not clearly see his face," she said.

Then the man just walked away and disappeared in the darkness, she added.

"I was not suspicious of the man because I thought he was a waiting passenger. "But not long after he moved, the bomb exploded where he had been sitting," Siti said.

The explosion was set off between two shopping blocks on a four-meter-wide street serving the eastern parts of Ambon.

The alley, which is deserted of people at night and lacks streetlight, was busy with the passing vans when the bomb exploded.

Maluku Governor Karel Albert Ralahalu urged the public Thursday not to be provoked by the bombing.

"The security officers will thoroughly investigate the case to find those responsible" he said.

During the last Ambon conflicts, the Mardika terminal was used by public vans providing services to Muslim passengers.

For Christian passengers, a temporary terminal was set up on Jalan Tulukabessy in the Citra area.

The services for Muslim and Christian passengers merged again by the end of 2004, following negotiations between both parties.

Despite the Wednesday's blast, however, public services including busses have returned to normal.