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2 Suicide Bombers Suspected in Attack

September 11, 2004|From Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Police said Friday that they suspected two suicide bombers in a white delivery truck set off the explosion Thursday outside the Australian Embassy here, killing themselves and seven other people.

As police released a security camera's grainy photograph of the truck, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said at a Jakarta news conference Friday that Indonesian police had received a mobile phone text message 45 minutes before the bombing, warning that foreign missions in Jakarta would be attacked unless the alleged head of the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah was freed from prison.

Australian officials said the threat was not passed on to Australian Federal Police until hours after Thursday's bombing. But Indonesian police said they had received no such warning.

"That's not true. Where did Downer get that from?" said police spokesman Maj. Gen. Paiman, who uses a single name.

The accused head of Jemaah Islamiah, Abu Bakar Bashir, is in jail while prosecutors draw up a revised indictment against him alleging that he inspired his followers to launch attacks. In 2002, an Indonesian court cleared Bashir of terrorism charges, but sentenced him to 18 months in jail for minor immigration violations. He was arrested again in April.

A claim of responsibility for the embassy bombing was posted in Jemaah Islamiah's name Thursday on a website known for carrying extremist Islamic content. Its authenticity could not be verified.

Jemaah Islamiah also has been blamed for bombings at Bali nightclubs in 2002 and against the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta a year ago.

The Australian Embassy attack, which also injured more than 170 people, struck a U.S. ally in the war in Iraq.

Police said the delivery truck was packed with 440 pounds of potassium chloride. Authorities said they recovered a vehicle chassis and other parts.

Indonesian National Police Chief Dai Bachtiar said authorities were searching for two alleged members of Jemaah Islamiah -- suspected Malaysian bomb-makers Azahari bin Husin and Noordin Top.

Lt. Gen. Suyitno Landung, national police chief of detectives, said information about the suicide bombers came from interrogations of six men arrested in June. Police also recovered letters in which a militant asked his family's permission to take part in a suicide bombing.

Australian forensics experts and bomb experts joined Indonesian police at the bomb site Friday. Bouquets of flowers lined the front of surrounding buildings along with posters saying: "Today, Indonesia is crying," and "Curse the terrorists!"

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