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25 Killed as 3 Bombings Rock Bali

At least 100 are injured in blasts at crowded restaurants. Indonesian authorities suspect the group behind the 2002 nightclub attacks.

October 02, 2005|Richard C. Paddock and Dinda Jouhana | Times Staff Writers

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

The blasts, which apparently were aimed at 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, and suspicion quickly fell on Jemaah Islamiah, the extremist Islamic group linked to Al Qaeda that was responsible for the suicide bombings 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 the bombings, and aides said he would fly to Bali today to inspect the scene. It was the first major terrorist attack 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."

Bali Police Chief I Made Mangku Pastika, who headed the 2002 bombing investigation, said police were trying to determine whether the restaurant attacks had been carried out by suicide bombers.

"We have not come to a conclusion yet," he said today as he arrived at the Kuta bomb site. "This is big. It cost 25 lives and 100 injured. Last night was dark, and now we search again."

Pastika noted that the Kuta bomb had left a small indentation in the floor of the restaurant, indicating it might have been placed there before it went off. It was unclear how the bombs, which were of similar size, had been detonated.

Later, Maj. Gen. Ansyaad Mbai, a top Indonesian anti-terrorism official, said "the indication is very strong" that suicide bombers had carried out the attacks.

Mbai said he had visited all three restaurants and in each case saw feet and a head separated by about 10 yards with the body missing -- a sign of a suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest.

"We are still investigating it," he said in a telephone interview. "We are still studying what we saw at the crime scene."

Although many victims remained unidentified, it appeared that about two-thirds of the casualties were Indonesians. Of the bodies identified so far, 12 were Indonesians, two were Australians and one was Japanese, hospital officials said. Authorities said at least three Americans were wounded.

In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a statement condemning the blasts. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured," it 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."

Experts said the blasts were a reminder that the war against terrorism was far from over.

"This shouldn't surprise anyone after London," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism specialist at Rand Corp.'s Washington office, referring to the July 7 attack on the London transit system that killed 52 people, plus the four bombers.

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

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

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

Soviana Suprato, an American of Indonesian descent, was inside 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 had been 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 of the restaurant showed blood and flesh on the walls and bodies on the floor. The blast damaged nearby shops, and broken glass covered the sidewalks. Witnesses reported hearing the explosion miles away.

Officials had warned in recent weeks that Jemaah Islamiah was preparing to attack again in Indonesia. The group struck targets frequented by foreigners in each of the last three years, and all of the attacks came in August, September or October.

In addition to targeting 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 attacks involved suicide car bombers, once unheard of in Indonesia.

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