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Published: 10/1/2005

25 killed, 100 wounded in Bali explosions

ASSOCIATED PRESS

BALI, Indonesia - Terrorists targeted the Indonesian tropical resort of Bali for the second time in three years today with coordinated bombings that devastated seafood and noodle restaurants packed with foreigners, killing at least 25 people and wounding at least 100.

The blasts came a month after Indonesia's president warned of possible terrorist attacks. Two Americans were among the wounded.

Today's near-simultaneous blasts at two seafood cafes on Jimbaran beach and a three-story noodle and steakhouse in downtown Kuta occurred almost three years to the day that bombings blamed on Islamic militants killed 202 people, mostly foreigners in Bali.

No one claimed responsibility for the latest bombings in the world's most populous Muslim nation, but suspicion immediately fell on the al-Qaida-linked militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, blamed for the 2002 attacks and other deadly attacks in Jakarta in recent years.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said terrorists were to blame and warned that more attacks were possible.

"We will hunt down the perpetrators and bring them to justice," he said, calling on people "to be on the alert."

Western and Indonesian intelligence agencies have warned repeatedly that Jemaah Islamiyah was plotting more attacks despite a string of arrests. Last month, Yudhoyono said he was especially worried the extremist network was about to strike.

"I received information at the time that terrorists were planning an action in Jakarta and that explosives were ready," he said Saturday.

Vice President Yusuf Kalla told the British Broadcasting Corp. it was too soon to identify those responsible. He said Yudhoyono will visit the area Sunday.

Officials at Sanglah Hospital, near Bali's capital of Denpasar, said 25 people were killed and 101 others were being treated at six hospitals.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that at least one Australian a 16-year-old was killed. Metro TV said a Japanese citizen also died.

The wounded included 49 Indonesians, 17 Australians, six Koreans, three Japanese and two Americans, Sanglah Hospital said.

The White House condemned the "attack aimed at innocent people taking their evening meal."

"We also express our solidarity with the government of Indonesia and convey our readiness to assist in any way," spokeswoman Erin Healy said.

Saturday's bombs detonated at about 8 p.m. as thousands of diners flocked to restaurants on the bustling, mostly Hindu island, which is just starting to recover from the 2002 blasts.

Baradita Katoppo, an Indonesian tourist from Jakarta, said one of the bombs on Jimbaran beach went off in the Nyoman Cafe, where he was eating with friends. Five minutes later, another explosion rocked a neighboring restaurant.

"I could see other people sustained injuries," he said. "There was blood on their faces and their bodies. It was very chaotic and confusing. We didn't know what to do."

Another witness, I Wayan Kresna, told the private El Shinta radio station that he counted at least two dead near that attack, and many more were taken to the hospital.

"I helped lift up the bodies," he said. "There was blood everywhere."

At almost the same time about 18 miles away in Kuta, a bomb exploded at the three-story Raja restaurant in a bustling outdoor shopping center. The area includes a KFC fast-food restaurant, clothing stores and a tourist information center.

Smoke poured from the badly damaged building.

The bomb apparently went off on the restaurant's second floor, and an Associated Press reporter saw at least three bodies and five wounded people there. There was no crater outside the building, indicating the blast was not caused by a car bomb.

Downer, the Australian foreign minister, said Australia had offered medical and police assistance.

Before the 2002 bombings, Bali enjoyed a reputation for peace and tranquility, an exception in a country wracked for years by ethnic and separatist violence. Those nightclub blasts killed people from 22 countries, including 88 Australians and seven Americans.

Courts on Bali have convicted dozens of militants for the blasts, and three suspects were sentenced to death.

Since the 2002 attacks, Jemaah Islamiyah has been tied to at least two other bombings in Indonesia, both in Jakarta. Those blasts, one outside the Australian Embassy in 2004 and the other at the J.W. Marriott hotel in 2003, killed at least 23.

The group wants to establish an Islamic state across Southeast Asia.

The United States and Australia contend that militant cleric Abu Bakar Bashir is the group's spiritual leader. The 67-year-old cleric, serving a two-year sentence for conspiracy in the 2002 attacks, is known for strong anti-Western and anti-Semitic views but has always maintained his innocence.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.



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