Terror alert raised as police link Jakarta and Bali blasts

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The Independent Online

Indonesian police have linked Tuesday's car bombing at a Jakarta hotel with the attack last year on two Bali nightclubs. And the Australian government warned yesterday that further terrorist strikes were likely.

Police said traces of two high-yield military explosives used in Bali were found near the Marriott Hotel in central Jakarta, where a powerful explosion killed 10 people and injured nearly 150. Indonesia's national police chief, General Da'i Bachtiar, said that, as in Bali, the bombers had tried to erase serial numbers on the vehicle's engine and chassis.

Australia said it had received new intelligence hours after the car bomb suggesting there could be more terrorist attacks in the coming days. "We have particular concerns at the moment about central Jakarta, but also other places in Indonesia," said the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer. The Indonesian government promised a security clampdown at high-profile targets.

The Marriott bomb, which destroyed the hotel's lobby and restaurant, is believed to be the work of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the regional Islamic terrorist group held responsible for the Bali atrocity last October.

Yesterday's edition of The Straits Times in Singapore quoted an unnamed JI operative claiming responsibility. According to the newspaper, he said: "This is a message ... for all our enemies that, if they execute any of our Muslim brothers, we will continue this campaign of terror in Indonesia and the region."

The newspaper's correspondent in Jakarta, Derwin Pereira, said he received a call two weeks ago from a "well-placed informant" warning of a major terrorist attack in Indonesia this month. Mr Pereira said the operative telephoned him after the explosion and described it as a "bloody warning" from JI to the Indonesian President, Megawati Sukarnoputri.

The timing of the bomb was ominous, with a verdict expected today in the case of Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, the first defendant to face trial over the attacks that killed 202 people in the Balinese resort of Kuta Beach. Amrozi, a Javanese mechanic, could be sentenced to death by a court in Denpasar, the island's capital.

The trials of numerous Bali suspects are proceeding concurrently, and yesterday Imam Samudra, the alleged mastermind of the Kuta bombs, expressed his pleasure about the Marriott incident. "Thank God, I am thankful," he shouted at a co-defendant's trial. "I am happy, especially if the perpetrators were Muslim."

Police said they planned to issue a sketch of one of two men who allegedly purchased the vehicle used in the Jakarta attack. The death toll was revised to 10 after the Indonesian Red Cross retracted an earlier claim that 14 people had been killed. The fatalities included the president of a Dutch bank, Ten foreigners, including two Americans, were injured.

Indonesia's chief security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, echoed Australia's warningin the light of the looming Amrozi verdict and the continuing trial of Abu Bakar Bashir, JI's alleged spiritual leader. "The government would like to remind the people ... of the possibility of more terrorist attacks," he said.

General Bachtiar said the Marriott bomb was a mixture of low-yield explosives and TNT. Cans of gasoline were packed around it to create a fiery blast. He said police were focusing their inquiries on JI because of the similarities with the Bali incident.