Horror returns to Bali: Dozens die as al-Qa'ida bombs hit tourist resorts

They hoped against hope that terrorists would not strike again. But three years after the first Bali bombings, Indonesia is once again dealing with carnage wrought by al-Qa'ida
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The Independent Online

The President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, confirmed that terrorists were to blame and warned that more attacks were possible. Only last month he had warned that the al-Qa'ida-linked militant group Jemaah Islamiyah would strike again.

The attacks came almost exactly three years after what were known - until yesterday, at least - as the Bali Bombings. Then, on another dreadful October Saturday, two bombs exploded in the tourist area of Kuta, killing 202 people, 26 of them Britons. One wrecked Paddy's Irish Bar, the other exploded in a van outside the Sari nightclub.

Yesterday, just three blocks away from there, bombers struck again, planting at least one bomb in the three-storey Raja noodle and steak house. Smoke poured from the building, which was badly damaged. The bomb apparently went off on the second floor of the restaurant, said a witness, who saw three bodies and at least five wounded.

Television pictures showed blood spattered on the floor with shattered glass from other shops and cafés littering the street. All around, wounded victims sat on the pavement, while others appeared to be in panic. There was no crater outside the building, indicating that it was not a car bomb. The other blast, and it was unclear whether there were one or two at each location, was at a crowded seafood restaurant in Jimbaran, a beach resort 19 miles from Kuta.

Among the injured were 49 Indonesians, 17 Australians, six Koreans, three Japanese and two Americans. A Foreign Office spokeswoman said at first that there were no reports of British casualties, but it was later reported that at least one Briton was injured.

Many of the injured were transported to Sanglah Hospital in the provincial capital, Denpasar, where the corridors had been lined with burnt bodies after the bombings three years ago. The Australian-funded burns unit was operating once again at full capacity. Hospital officials said that at least 25 people had died, and they expected the number to rise.

The 2002 Bali Bombings were linked to Jemaah Islamiyah. Since then, the same militant group has been connected with at least two other bombings in Indonesia, both in the capital, Jakarta. Those blasts, one at the Marriott hotel in 2003 and the other outside the Australian embassy in 2004, killed at least 17 people.

Western and Indonesian intelligence agencies have consistently warned that the group was plotting more attacks. Last month, President Yudhoyono said he was especially worried that the network was on the brink of another atrocity. Although no one has yet claimed responsibility for yesterday's bombings, analysts believe that they show that the Bali cell of Jemaah Islamiyah is still active, despite the arrest and sentencing of senior figures in the past year.

The new blasts are the latest in an appalling summer for terrorist attacks. First there was the 7 July bombings in London, which killed 52, and then, later that month, 64 people died, several of them Britons, and 200 were injured when three bombs struck the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. And, in August, there was widespread anger in the West, and especially among relatives of those killed in the 2002 Bali Bombings, when Indonesia reduced the 30-month sentence handed down to controversial cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir.

Susanna Miller, a Briton whose brother Dan was among the dead, said then: "They showed no clemency when they attacked so many innocent people mercilessly, and it's deeply distressing to think that they may have any sort of remission. We as relatives will never get any sort of remission from what happened to our loved ones."

But last night, the anger was focused on the new outrages. The Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, whose brother Jon-athan died in the 2002 blasts, called the attack a "horrific reminder". Brian Deegan, an Australian whose 21-year-old son, Josh, died in the 2002 bombings, said: "I know now that there are other dads out there and mums that are just going to join the queue and I just find this revolting."