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Embassy Blast in Indonesia Kills 3

No one inside the fortified Australian mission is hurt, a spokeswoman says. Outside, more than 80 people are wounded.

September 09, 2004|Sari Sudarsono and Richard C. Paddock | Times Staff Writers

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A powerful bomb rocked the Australian Embassy today, killing at least three people outside the compound and injuring more than 80 others.

The explosion shattered windows in as many as a dozen buildings. Australia and the U.S. recently issued warnings that Islamic extremists might be preparing an attack in Indonesia.

National Police Chief Dai Bachtiar said that the blast was caused by a car bomb and that the same modus operandi as in two previous attacks was used.

A suicide car bombing of the JW Marriott Hotel carried out by the Jemaah Islamiah terrorist network in the same part of Jakarta last year killed 12 people. In 2002, the terrorist group killed 202 people in suicide bombings at two Bali nightclubs.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said as many as six people might be dead.

One of the dead was an embassy guard. A Times reporter saw three bodies on the ground outside the embassy compound. One was headless, and another was missing a leg. A motorcycle was demolished, and human bone was visible in the debris. Eight cars parked outside the embassy, including a police truck, also were damaged.

Kastubi, a security guard at a neighboring building -- who, like many Indonesians, uses only one name -- reported seeing nine injured security officers and two police officers being taken from the scene.

"This bombing is more devastating than the Marriott bombing," said Utoh Banja, a worker in a nearby building who came to the site when he heard the blast.

An Australian official said no one inside the embassy was injured in the blast, Associated Press reported. The embassy's metal front gate was bent by the force of the explosion.

The blast comes less than two weeks before Indonesians go to the polls to elect a president. Officials had prided themselves on the fact that there had been no bloodshed in the months leading up to the Sept. 20 vote.

More than 30 people linked to Jemaah Islamiah have been convicted and sentenced to prison for their part in the Bali and Marriott bombings. The group's suspected leader, radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, is in jail in Jakarta, the capital, awaiting trial on terrorism charges.

The group, which has close ties to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network, is believed to have hundreds, if not thousands, of members active in Indonesia. In addition, those suspected of helping plan the Bali and Marriott blasts remain on the loose.

Bin Laden has called for attacks on Australians. Many Indonesians see the country as a U.S. surrogate and say it meddles in Indonesian affairs.

*

Sudarsono reported from Jakarta and Paddock from Kuwait City.

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