Indonesia police reconstructing face of suicide bomber

Indonesian police said on Sunday they were reconstructing the face of one of the suspected suicide bombers from a severed head in a bid to push forward a probe into deadly attacks on two luxury Jakarta hotels.

Nine people died and 53 were wounded in Friday’s attacks on the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton, according to police. The two hotels were popular with business executives and diplomats and considered to be among the most secure buildings in the capital.

The blasts, which are suspected of being carried out by Islamic militants, left some bodies so badly mutilated they were difficult to identify and two decapitated corpses were believed by police to belong to the suicide bombers.

”We are trying to reconstruct the face of one of the heads we found to see if it matches the guest from 1808. We will ask witnesses and receptionists, is it him?,” police spokesperson Nanan Soekarna told a news conference.

Police said the bombers had checked in to the Marriott as paying guests on Wednesday and had assembled the bombs in their room. A third bomb was found and defused in a laptop computer bag in room 1808.

Soekarna said the attacks bore the hallmarks of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), the radical militant Islamist group responsible for a string of deadly attacks in Jakarta and on the resort island of Bali that seemed to end in 2005.

”The method, the equipment used is the same as both bombs in Bali and the one found in Cilacap,” he said referring to the Bali attacks in 2002 and 2005, and bomb equipment police recently found during raids in Cilacap, Central Java.

Ansyaad Mbai, head of the anti-terrorism desk at Indonesia’s security ministry, said the attacks may be linked to a fugitive Malaysian-born militant Noordin Top, who is believed to have broken away from JI to form a more radical wing.

Mbai was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara that the government was stepping up efforts to find Noordin Top, who has been linked to a string of attacks, as as priority.

Sidney Jones, a Jakarta-based expert on Islamic terrorism at the International Crisis Group, also said that the attacks had the hallmarks of Noordin Top.

”The most important hallmark is the suicide bombing as a method of attack and also the targeting of iconic Western symbols, both of those are associated more with Noordin than with mainstream Jemaah Islamiah,” Jones told Reuters in an interview.

Malaysia’s New Sunday Times newspaper cited an unnamed senior police source as saying that although the attacks bore Noordin Top’s hallmark, intelligence reports indicated that he was not involved.

Security was increased at shopping malls and hotels across Jakarta at the weekend.

The Four Seasons Hotel in Jakarta was briefly evacuated on Sunday morning after a bomb scare, although guests were later allowed to return after a search, a receptionist said.

Elshinta radio reported that the hotel had received a telephone call warning of a device planted on the 18th floor.

The casualties of Friday’s attacks included citizens of Indonesia, the United States, Australia, South Korea, The Netherlands, Italy, Britain, Canada, Norway, Japan and India.

The blasts are a severe blow for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was re-elected earlier this month in a landslide victory on the back of strong growth in South-east Asia’s biggest economy. – Reuters

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