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Indonesian Dies in Bomb Attempt at U.S. Facility

September 23, 2002|RICHARD C. PADDOCK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

JAKARTA, Indonesia — An Indonesian man died early today while apparently trying to attack an unoccupied U.S. Embassy warehouse with a hand grenade, authorities said.

Police said the grenade exploded in the man's car before he was able to throw it out the window. The car veered off the street and crashed into a utility pole outside the building in a residential neighborhood, police said.

The driver of the car, identified as Yusuf Hartual, was captured with the help of local residents. A subsequent search of one of the men's houses turned up two drums of TNT, pistols and ammunition, authorities said.

The attempted drive-by assault followed nearly two weeks of warnings by U.S. officials of "specific and credible" terrorist threats against the U.S. Embassy and American citizens in Indonesia. It was unclear, however, whether the incident was connected to those threats; police said both men were from Indonesia's Molucca Islands, which have been torn by religious violence for nearly four years.

Embassy officials declined to comment other than to say Indonesian police were investigating.

The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta and the U.S. Consulate in the city of Surabaya were closed for nearly a week this month after a top Al Qaeda operative captured in Indonesia said terrorist cells planned to attack U.S. facilities in Southeast Asia around the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

On Thursday, the U.S. government warned Americans not to go to the central Javan city of Yogyakarta, a popular tourist destination, because of a new "specific and credible" threat.

The U.S, Singapore and Malaysia allege that Islamic extremists in Indonesia are at the center of an international terrorist network that has plotted to bomb U.S. targets in the region. Indonesian authorities, however, have been slow to act, and some top officials contend that there are no terrorists operating in the country.

By all accounts, the terror cells' actions are marked as much by incompetence as success.

Several bomb-makers have blown themselves up while making or transporting explosives intended to destroy churches in Indonesia. Another blew off his leg while carrying a bomb in a Jakarta shopping mall. Reported plots to assassinate President Megawati Sukarnoputri and blow up a U.S. warship in Surabaya's harbor have come to nothing.

Police were unable to say why the grenade exploded in the car during today's attempted attack about 3:30 a.m. outside the building in central Jakarta, the capital.

Some police officials reported that the car had exploded, but inspection of the vehicle showed damage consistent with a grenade going off in the front passenger seat. Most of the damage was to the door and flooring on the passenger side.

The dead man was identified as Abdul Aziz. Two people riding in the back seat escaped.

*

Sari Sudarsono of The Times' Jakarta Bureau contributed to this report.

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