Deadly attack occurs in Bali

Foreign tourists apparent targets of 3 bomb blasts

October 02, 2005|By RICHARD C. PADDOCK AND DINDA JOUHANA | RICHARD C. PADDOCK AND DINDA JOUHANA,LOS ANGELES TIMES

JIMBARAN, Indonesia - Three bombs exploded, two almost simultaneously, last evening at crowded restaurants on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, killing at least 25 people and wounding more than 100 others, authorities said.

The blasts, which apparently targeted foreign tourists, ripped through two open-air cafes at popular Jimbaran Beach and, moments later, struck a restaurant about 18 miles north in the city of Kuta.

Authorities branded the bombings terrorist attacks. Suspicion quickly fell on Jemaah Islamiyah, an extremist Muslim group linked to al-Qaida that was responsible for the double suicide bombing of two nightclubs in Kuta three years ago this month.

That attack killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned yesterday's bombings, and aides said he would fly to Bali today to inspect the scene. It was the first major terrorist attack in Indonesia since the retired general took office nearly a year ago.

"These were clearly acts of terrorism, because the victims were chosen at random and the targets were in public places," the president said.

"We will hunt down the perpetrators ... and they will be tried and severely punished."

Although many victims remained unidentified, it appeared that about two-thirds of the dead and wounded were Indonesians. Of the bodies identified so far, 12 were Indonesians, two were Australian and one was Japanese, hospital officials said.

Authorities said at least three Americans were among the wounded.

In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a written statement condemning the bombing.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured," the statement read.

"The United States stands with the people and government of Indonesia as they work to bring to justice those responsible for these acts of terrorism," Rice said. "We will continue to work together in our common fight against terror."

Terrorism experts said the blast was one more reminder that the war against terrorism is far from over.

"This shouldn't surprise anyone after London," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism specialist at the RAND Corp.'s Washington office. He was referring to the July attacks on the London transit system that killed 52 commuters.

The beach at Jimbaran, near the Intercontinental and Four Seasons hotels, is lined with seafood restaurants on the sand and is popular with tourists and residents.

Witnesses said the first bomb struck a cafe on the beach shortly before 8 p.m. as it was packed with Saturday night diners. As customers began to flee, another bomb went off at a second restaurant. The two restaurants targeted were the Nyoman and Manage cafes.

Minutes later in downtown Kuta, a bomb struck the three-story Raja noodle shop and steakhouse.

Soviana Suprato, an American of Indonesian descent, was dining with her family when the blast sent shards of metal flying through the restaurant. Two of her children, her husband and her father were injured.

"We were just sitting there and about to order food," she said as she sobbed at Sanglah Hospital, where her family members were taken. "All of a sudden, I heard an explosion and everything went dark. Please tell the embassy I want to go home. I am so scared."

Video footage of the restaurant showed blood and flesh on the walls and bodies lying on the floor. The blast damaged nearby shops, and broken glass covered the sidewalks. Witnesses reported hearing the bomb from miles away.

Officials had warned in recent weeks that Jemaah Islamiyah was preparing to attack again somewhere in Indonesia.

The group struck targets frequented by foreigners during each of the last three years, and all of the attacks came between August and October.

In addition to the Bali nightclubs, the group bombed the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in 2003, killing 12, and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta last year, killing 10. All three involved suicide car bomb attacks, which were once unheard of in Indonesia.

No one had taken responsibility for yesterday's bombings, but Jemaah Islamiyah, like al-Qaida, is known for staging near-simultaneous bombings, including the attack on two Bali nightclubs on Oct. 12, 2002.

Security had been heightened at major hotels across the country, but there are still many "soft targets," such as the restaurants hit in yesterday's attacks.

Dozens of members of Jemaah Islamiyah have been arrested and convicted over the past three years, and some have been sentenced to death or life in prison.

The group's spiritual leader, cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, is serving more than two years for his role in the Bali bombings.

Tourism in Bali had slowly returned to normal since the nightclub bombings. Many Balinese, who depend on tourists for their livelihood, feared that the latest bombings would once again wreak havoc on the island's economy.

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