A large explosion was set off early Thursday outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta's financial district, killing at least three people and wounding more than 100, officials said. Police said the blast appeared to have been caused by a car bomb.

The explosion at 10:30 a.m. mangled the high metal gate in front of the Australian Embassy and shattered the windows of office towers along the adjacent boulevard. Scores of police rushed to the scene and police helicopters circled overhead. Windows of several cars and buses were blown out by the force of the explosion. A nearby police truck was destroyed.

A witness said he saw a motorcycle rider killed in the explosion, his body dismembered.

John Kalangi, 45, a businessman from eastern Indonesia, said he was inside the Australian Embassy applying for a visa when the blast occurred.

"I just heard a blast, a bang," he said. "It happened very fast and we just covered our heads."

Nearby buildings were evacuated and police set up a security perimeter about a mile away from the embassy as smoke from the explosion billowed.

Indonesia has been targeted in several attacks in the recent past. The district where the blast went off Thursday was the site of a suicide bombing in 2002. That explosion, near the JW Marriott Hotel, killed 12 people. In 2002, two nightclubs were bombed in Bali, killing 202 people, a large percentage of them tourists from Australia.

No Australian Embassy workers were hurt in Thursday's explosion, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Lyndall Sachs said from the Australian capital, Canberra, according to the Associated Press. She said that windows of the building were shattered and that power was down.

Harold Crouch, a professor at the Australian National University who was inside the embassy at the time of the blast, said part of the ceiling toward the front of the embassy had collapsed and doors had been blown out.

"The entrance to the building was completely wrecked," he said.

The embassy is set back from the street out front, Rasuna Said Boulevard. The offices of the senior Australian officials are not located at the front of the building, Crouch said.