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by Associated Press
Monday, Oct. 03, 2005 at 12:42 PM
Bali has been devastated by terror attacks possibly by Al-Qaeda. The attacks killed 26 people and injured more than 100.
By IRWAN FIRDAUS, Associated Press Writer
BALI, Indonesia - Indonesia said Sunday it suspected two fugitives linked to al-Qaida had masterminded the suicide bombings of crowded restaurants in tourist resorts on the Indonesian island of Bali which killed at least 26 people and injured more than 100.
Maj. Gen. Ansyaad Mbai, a top Indonesian anti-terror official, identified the two suspected masterminds as Malaysians alleged to be key members of the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror group. They are also accused of orchestrating the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, as well as two other attacks in the Indonesian capital in 2003 and 2004. The nightclub bombings, which also struck venues crowded with tourists on a Saturday night, killed 202 people, most of them foreigners.
In the latest attacks, three suicide bombers wearing explosive vests set off near-simultaneous explosions that devastated three restaurants crowded with diners on Saturday night.
"The modus operandi of Saturday's attacks is the same as the earlier ones," said Mbai, who identified the two suspected masterminds as Azahari bin Husin and Noordin Mohamed Top.
He said the two were not believed to be among the three suicide attackers. The assailants' remains were found at the bombing scenes but they have not yet been identified, he said.
"I have seen them. All that is left is their head and feet," he told The Associated Press. "By the evidence we can conclude the bombers were carrying the explosives around their waists."
Video footage of one of the blasts showed groups of tourists, many of them apparently Westerners, seated at candlelit tables talking and sipping drinks in the seconds before the explosion. The footage, obtained by Associated Press Television News, then shows a bright flash accompanied by a loud bang and gusts of black smoke.
It was not immediately clear whether the three suicide bombers were included in the death toll which climbed to 26 on Sunday, according to Sanglah Hospital spokesman Putu Putra Wisada. Six Americans were among the injured.
Long lines formed at checkout counters at Bali's international airport with a steady stream of taxis dropping off passengers.
"We were up all night trying to change our ticket," said Veli-Matti Enqvist, 51, who had been scheduled to leave Bali with his wife on Wednesday. The couple was walking on the beach when they heard the blasts. "We finally found something ... we're going."
After the 2002 bombings, there was an immediate and massive evacuation of foreign visitors which devastated the island's tourist industry.
The latest bombings struck two seafood cafes in the Jimbaran beach resort and a three-story noodle and steakhouse in downtown Kuta. Kuta is the bustling tourist center of Bali where the two nightclubs were bombed three years ago.
The latest attacks came a month after Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono warned of possible terrorist attacks. On Saturday, he blamed terrorists and warned that more attacks were possible. The president was in Bali on Sunday to see the devastation firsthand.
"We will hunt down the perpetrators and bring them to justice," he said.
Western and Indonesian intelligence agencies have warned repeatedly that Jemaah Islamiyah was plotting more attacks in the world's most populous Muslim country. Last month, Yudhoyono said he was especially worried the extremist network was about to strike.
"I received information at the time that terrorists were planning an action in Jakarta and that explosives were ready," he said Saturday.
Dozens of people, most of them Indonesian, waited in tears outside the morgue in Sanglah Hospital, near the island's capital Denpasar, for news of friends and relatives missing since the attacks.
One Australian and a Japanese citizen were among those killed, along with 12 Indonesians. Hospital officials were trying to identify the other victims.
The 101 wounded included 49 Indonesians, 17 Australians, six Americans, six Koreans, four Japanese, officials said.
The White House condemned the "attack aimed at innocent people taking their evening meal."
"We also express our solidarity with the government of Indonesia and convey our readiness to assist in any way," spokeswoman Erin Healy said.
The bombers struck at about 8 p.m. as thousands of diners flocked to restaurants in tourist areas on the bustling, mostly Hindu island, which was just starting to recover from the 2002 blasts.
The head waiter at the Menega Cafe said the bomb went off at his beachside restaurant between the tables of two large dinner parties, who were sitting in the sand. Most of the 120 diners at the restaurant were Indonesian, he said.
"Everyone started screaming "Allah, Allah, help!" said Wayan Subagia, 23, who escaped with injuries to his leg. "One woman rushed to pick up her child but the little girl was already dead."
Minutes later he heard another blast at the Nyoman seafood restaurant, about 50 yards away.
At almost the same time about 18 miles away in Kuta, a bomb exploded at the three-story Raja restaurant in a bustling outdoor shopping center. The area includes a KFC fast-food restaurant, clothing stores and a tourist information center.
Smoke poured from the badly damaged building.
The bomb apparently went off on the restaurant's second floor, and an Associated Press reporter saw at least three bodies and five wounded people there.
Before the 2002 bombings, Bali enjoyed a reputation for peace and tranquility, an exception in a country wracked for years by ethnic and separatist violence.
Courts on Bali have convicted dozens of militants for the blasts, and three suspects were sentenced to death.
Since the 2002 attacks, Jemaah Islamiyah has been tied to at least two other bombings in Indonesia, both in Jakarta. Those blasts, one outside the Australian Embassy in 2004 and the other at the J.W. Marriott hotel in 2003, killed at least 23.
The group's alleged spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, who has been jailed for conspiracy in the 2002 attacks, through a spokesman denied any personal connection to the weekend explosions. There was no statement from the group, which wants to establish an Islamic state across Southeast Asia.
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