09/10/2004, 00.00
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Indonesia's Catholic Church urges the entire nation to unite against terrorism

The attack against the Australian Embassy in Jakarta comes on the eve of Indonesia presidential run-off election and a month before Australia's elections.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/UCAN) – "An action against public civility," said Fr Ignatius Ismartono, spokesperson for the Indonesia Catholic Bishops's Conference, commenting yesterday's attack against the Australian Embassy in Jakarta."We can stop violence and terrorism," he added, "only when more and more people, regardless of their political background, join together to defeat the terrorists". Theophilus Bela, secretary of Jakarta Christian Forum, said: "We hope security and government forces can combat terrorists so that we can have a safe presidential election". The attack left nine people dead and 180 injured with 10 in serious conditions.

On an Islamic website, Jemaah Islamiyah, a terrorist organisation linked to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack. "We decided to call Australia to account, which we consider one of the worst enemies of God, and God's religion of Islam," the statement said. "A mujahideen (holy warrior)," it went on to say, "was able to execute a martyrdom operation with a car bomb in front of the embassy". Investigators are still verifying the message's authenticity.

Indonesia's national police chief General Dai Bachtiar confirmed that the attack might be the work of Jemaah Islamiyah. Two Malaysian terrorists, Noordin Mohammad Top and Azahari Husin, are thought to have masterminded the operation. Jakarta police chief General Firman Gani said the attackers' modus operandi –three people in a car filled with explosive– was similar to the August 2003 Mariott Hotel massacre. That attack, too, was thought to be the work of Malaysians.

"From the forensic evidence at the site, the attackers were probably recruited by Azahari and Noordin," Bachtiar said. According to Gani, the attackers used a car to break down the defensive barrier that surrounds the Embassy building in order to amplify the effect of the blast. However, no Embassy employee was hurt.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard vowed that terrorists would not dictate Australia's foreign policy. ""Once a country starts doing that," he said, "it's handing over control of its future." Federal elections are scheduled in Australia for October 9 and the debate is dominated by Australia's 2000 troop commitment to Iraq in support of the US.

Indonesia's Megawati and her opponent in the upcoming presidential run-off election Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met some of the injured in hospital for a few minutes.

Indonesian Military Chief General Endriartono Sutarto Endriartono declined any comments concerning possible chaos that could follow the September 20 election. "Let the police investigation get underway," he said. (MH-LF)

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