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Police highlight Bali similarities in Jakarta blast
( 2003-08-06 15:24) (Agencies)

Police hunting for clues to who blew up a luxury hotel in the Indonesian capital said on Wednesday the explosives and the methods bore similarities to those used in last year's deadly Bali nightclub blasts. Tuesday's devastating car bomb attack, two days before the first Bali bomb trial verdict and after a spate of global terror warnings, killed up to 16 people in Jakarta's five-star, US-managed JW Marriott Hotel.

An Indonesian forensic police team searches the wreckage of cars damaged by a blast at the Marriott hotel's compound in Jakarta August 5, 2003. Indonesian police will issue a sketch of the owner of a car used in a huge bomb attack, but did not say on Wednesday that the individual was a suspect in the blast. [Reuters]
Singapore's Straits Times reported that the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militant Muslim group, widely blamed for the Bali carnage, had claimed responsibility for the latest blast.

The newspaper, which did not make clear how it had received the message, said "a JI operative" had described the attack as a "bloody warning" to Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri not to clamp down on militants.

"This is a message for her and all our enemies that, if they execute any of our Muslim brothers, we will continue this campaign of terror in Indonesia and the region," it quoted the JI operative saying. It would be the first time JI has claimed responsibility for an attack.

Jakarta holds JI responsible for last October's Bali bombings, which killed 202, many of them Australian revelers in two nightclubs. Australian federal police have been working with local police on the Bali investigation, and more officers flew to Jakarta on Wednesday to help probe the hotel blast.


Indonesian and Australian forensic officers were picking through the debris for clues to the perpetrators. The blast was believed to have been triggered by a suicide bomber.

Explosives and the methods used resembled the Bali bombs, police said, making a stronger link between the two. The Bali bombs contained a cocktail of ingredients, including large amounts of TNT and potassium chlorate -- a fertilizer compound.

"The modus (operandi) and the materials used were similar," Erwin Mappaseng, head of the criminal investigation department, told reporters. "There were low explosives and high explosives, the low was black powder and the high TNT."

Another police official said the Marriott was in a small area named as a potential target in notes seized from JI suspects who were arrested in July. A huge cache of potassium chlorate, TNT, detonators and weapons were also netted in the sweep in central Java.

One foreigner, a Dutch Rabobank executive, was among those killed on Tuesday. Four Singaporeans, two Americans, two Australians and several New Zealanders were among 150 wounded.

Confusion clouded the death toll, with Jakarta police saying up to 10 had died while Australia said the number killed had risen to 16 in an attack clearly intended to target foreigners.

International condemnation was swift. The United States offered Megawati help in bringing those behind the suspected suicide bombing to justice.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff pointed the finger at JI. "It's almost inevitable when you have a group like Jemaah Islamiah that sooner or later they will be successful. They tragically have been again on this occasion," Goff told Radio New Zealand on Wednesday.


Chief Indonesian Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said a new approach to security in public places was needed to combat terror threats, the official Antara news agency reported.

"The government will impose these restrictions as we are determined to prevent the deaths of more victims. Their lives are worth more than the price of human rights," the Jakarta Post quoted Yudhoyono as saying.

In a first step to track down those responsible, police said they would issue a sketch of the owner of the car but did not say if the individual was a suspect in the blast.

"Police have obtained physical features from the (previous) owner of the car and we will issue a sketch based on that," Erwin Mappaseng said.

"This is a clear message that the war against terrorism in the region must be pursued without let-up," Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo told ASEAN finance ministers in Manila.

"Vigilance must become a way of life for the region even as we maintain normalcy in the course of work and business."

Indonesians were shocked by the bombing.

"This is sadistic. I bet they were anti-American," said Tambunan, a middle-aged man as he stared up at the Marriott's shattered windows. Twisted metal lay in front of the hotel. The shells of two burned-out cars had yet to be removed.

Security has already been stepped up in Jakarta, with guards checking cars before they enter some building compounds.

The Australian school said security had been raised to the highest level at its two campuses in Jakarta, but the atmosphere was relaxed and pupils were arriving as usual.

Jakarta warned recently of more attacks by Jemaah Islamiah.

"The scale, style, the target and the timing all point to JI," said one security expert in Jakarta, referring to Thursday's announcement of the first Bali verdict and Tuesday's treason hearing of Abu Bakar Bashir, the cleric accused of heading Jemaah Islamiah.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard urged Australians in Jakarta to take care and recommended that other Australians avoid all non-essential travel to Indonesia.

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