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Australia: Breakthrough in embassy bombing
Updated: 2004-09-13 14:21

Investigators have found the chassis number of the van used in the Jakarta embassy attack, the same breakthrough that led to the identification of the Bali bombers, a top Australian policeman said on Monday.

Fifty Australian police are in Jakarta assisting the investigation into last Thursday's suicide bombing outside the Australian embassy, which killed nine people and wounded 182.

"In the last few days the chassis number of the vehicle used in the (embassy) bombing has been discovered," Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said on Monday.

"People might recall that was one of the early leads in the Bali (2002 nightclub) bombing that led to the identification of those responsible, so we're hoping that that will be the case on this occasion," Keelty said after returning from Jakarta.

The October 2002 Bali blasts killed 202 people, including 88 Australians. Police suspect the militant Islamic network Jemaah Islamiah was responsible for that attack, Thursday's embassy blast and the suicide bombing of Jakarta's JW Marriott hotel last year that killed 12.

Australia fears a second JI cell remains active and is poised to strike and Australians and Americans have been warned to avoid a Jakarta apartment complex, home to many Westerners, because militants could stage a second attack.

Indonesian police believe JI is the regional arm of al Qaeda.

Travel Warning

Australia late on Sunday updated its travel alert on Indonesia to include a Sept. 11 US embassy warning "to avoid the Kuningan area of Jakarta, including the area near the embassy of Australia and the entire Rasuna (apartment) complex".

"We continue to receive reports that terrorists in the region are planning attacks against a range of targets, including places frequented by foreigners," said the Australian travel warning.

Keelty reiterated the warning to avoid the Rasuna apartments, saying JI often alternated between soft and hard targets, but added he did not want to cause alarm.

Keelty said that while the main JI suspects, fugitive Malaysian bomb-making expert Azahari Husin and Noordin Mohammed Top, were free "you can't discount further bombings".

"If we look at their modus operandi, when the bombing of the Australian High Commission in Singapore was thwarted (in 2001) by the Singaporean authorities, we understand that (JI leader) Hambali caused a meeting to occur to then plan for a softer target and that's when the Bali bombing occurred," Keelty told Australian radio. Hambali was captured last year.

"So they do have a track record for going for softer targets," Keelty said.

Keelty said investigations into the Australian embassy bombing suggests the death toll may have to be updated to include a 10th victim, possibly the suicide bomber.

"There appears to be only one other body, which might indicate there was only one suicide bomber," Keelty said.

"We need DNA samples from the body parts to be graphic about it, so confirmation of that 10th person might not come for some time yet," he said.

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