Terror in paradise

Powerful bombs ripped through three crowded restaurants on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Saturday, killing at least 25 people and wounding more than 100 — the second time terrorists have brought carnage to the tropical paradise in three years.

Witnesses reported seeing dismembered bodies at the scene, many of them foreigners.

No one has claimed responsibility for the bombings in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, but suspicion immediately fell on the al-Qaeda-linked militant group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Indonesian President Suslio Bambang Yudhyono said terrorists are to blame and warned more attacks are possible.

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

The near-simultaneous blasts at two packed seafood cafés on Jimbaran beach and a three-storey noodle and steak house in downtown Kuta occurred days before the anniversary of the October 12 2002 bombings that killed 202 people at two nightclubs just a short walk away.

Jemaah Islamiyah was blamed for those attacks and subsequent deadly bombings in the capital in 2003 and 2004.

Western and Indonesian intelligence agencies have repeatedly warned the group 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 on Saturday, without elaborating.

Sanglah hospital, near Bali’s capital, Denpasar, which took over the task of identifying victims, said 25 people were killed and 101 others were being treated at six hospitals.

Among the injured were 49 Indonesians, 17 Australians, six Koreans, three Japanese and two Americans, a hospital official said, adding that the others had yet to been identified.

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

Bombs in restaurants

The latest bombs went off at about 8pm local time as thousands of diners flocked to restaurants on the bustling tourist island that was 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 Café, where he was eating with friends. Five minutes later, another explosion rocked a neighbouring seafood 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.”

Witness I Wayan Kresna told the private El Shinta radio station he counted at least two dead near that attack and that many others were brought to a hospital.

”I helped lift up the bodies,” he said, adding that many of the victims were foreigners. ”There was blood everywhere.”

About 30km away in Kuta, at almost exactly the same time, an explosion hit the three-storey Raja noodle and steakhouse in a bustling outdoor shopping centre. 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.

Hallmarks of Jemaah Islamiyah

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

Ken Conboy, author of an upcoming book on South-East Asian terrorism, said Saturday’s bombings had all the hallmarks of Jemaah Islamiyah.

”They saw the 2002 Bali bombing as their only true success because it inflicted foreign casualties, and the collateral damage weren’t Muslims,” he said. — Sapa-AP

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