Bali attacks: Police hunt suicide bombers' accomplices

Speculation about who is responsible: Islamic militants of the Jemaah Islamiyah or extreme right groups. The death toll is as yet uncertain, oscillating between 22 and 27 deaths. Jakarta is under red alert. President Susilo: the terrorists aim to strike other sensitive targets in the country.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The Bali police are hunting accomplices of the three suicide bombers who wreaked havoc on the island on Saturday 1 October. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Analysts and some police officials have already pointed a finger at the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). This Indonesian group of Islamic background already stands charged with masterminding the attack on the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta (14 people were killed in the blast on 5 August 2003) and the Bali attack on 12 October 2002 (202 people were killed and 300 wounded). Two people were condemned to death for these attacks.

General Endriartono Sutarto, the head of the Indonesian army, has a different view. He said yesterday this second attack in Bali could be the work of right wing groups seeking to express – in the name of religion – their disagreement with "a country's foreign policy (the United States)".

He said: "I am still not certain about this issue. In any case, such bloody and merciless action could not be morally accepted. The victims are innocent people."

Moreover, the death toll of the three explosions, which rocked the tourist towns of Jimbaran and Kuta a few minutes apart from each other, is not yet known for certain. This morning, hospital sources talked of 27 dead, including the three attackers; last night the head of the Bali police, General Made Mangku Pastika, put the death toll at 22, without specifying whether this figure included the suicide bombers or not. Nor did he explain why his statistic differed from that supplied by the hospital in Sanglah, where the bodies were taken. Hospital sources said people injured who have been identified include: 64 Indonesians, 20 Australians, seven South Koreans, four Americans, three Japanese, one French person and one German.

General Pastika confirmed that there were three suicide bombers: "The three blew themselves up and were killed instantly on site. We have found their heads intact and we are proceeding to identify them." According to the general – who participated in investigations into the previous Bali attack in 2002 – the suicide bombers carried the explosives in a backpack: "There are remains in a jacket or a bag attached to the bodies". During a press conference, he added: "What is clear is that the number of assailants is higher, another three at least were involved in the execution of the attack: the police are now searching for those who planned the attack, created the bombs and mapped out the strategy for action."

The Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has warned that terrorism could hit Indonesia again. According to Susilo, who visited Bali yesterday, "the terrorists are searching for new sensitive targets".

The capital went on red alert soon after the Bali bombings. The head of the Jakarta police, Firman Gani, called an emergency meeting for police leaders of the entire region today. A special anti-terrorism police squad launched rigorous checks of strongholds of Islamic extremism like Karanganyar, Klaten, Prambanan and coastal areas of central Java. (MS)