Bombings in Indonesian resort island of Bali kill at least 25

Sunday, October 2, 2005

BALI, Indonesia -- Almost exactly three years ago, al-Qaida linked terrorists bombed two Bali nightclubs, killing 202 people and devastating the tourist trade on the island previously known for its peace and tranquility.

In the relative calm since, tourists and Indonesians alike have been coaxed into returning to the restaurants scattered along Bali's white sand beaches, where on weekend nights they feasted on barbecued seafood and noodles.

On Saturday night, Bali's calm was shattered once more as terrorists set off three near simultaneous bombs, killing 25 people and wounding at least 100 others, many of them foreigners.

At least two of the injured were Americans.

'Blood everywhere'

Baradita Katoppo, an Indonesian securities analyst, was on Jimbaran beach when the first bomb went off at around 8:00 p.m. Saturday in the Nyoman Cafe, where he was having dinner with his co-workers. Five minutes later, another explosion rocked a neighboring restaurant filled with diners.

"There was blood on their faces and their bodies," he said. "We didn't know what to do."

Another witness, I Wayan Kresna, told the private El Shinta radio station that bloodied victims lined the floor.

"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.

Placing blame

No one claimed responsibility for the blasts in the world's most populous Muslim nation, but suspicion immediately fell on the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, blamed for the Oct. 12, 2002, attack at a Bali nightclub that killed 202 people and two other deadly bombings in the capital Jakarta in recent years.

Last month, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he was worried the extremist network was about to strike again.

"I received information at the time that terrorists were planning an action in Jakarta and that explosives were ready," he said Saturday, adding that he immediately called for increased security.

"If this is the same group that was plotting attacks, maybe they sought new targets," he said, noting that the bombers appeared to have picked open and public areas, not tightly guarded sites like the many five-star hotels that dot the famous beaches.

"We will hunt down the perpetrators and bring them to justice," he said warning that more attacks were possible.

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

Many also wounded

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.

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.

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