Bomb blasts rock Indonesia’s Bali, 21 dead

Bomb blasts rock Indonesia’s Bali, 21 dead
By Darren Whiteside
From Reuters

BALI, Indonesia (Reuters) – Two bomb blasts ripped through popular tourist areas on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Saturday, killing at least 21 people including foreigners and wounding 85, officials said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned as terrorism the nearly simultaneous blasts, which come three years after militants linked to al Qaeda bombed two nightclubs in Bali, killing 202 people, mainly foreign tourists.

Police confirmed two bomb blasts near separate cafes packed with evening diners, one in Kuta Beach and the other Jimbaran Beach, while local Metro TV said there had been four blasts.

“People were running for their lives. Foreign tourists were wounded. I am so scared,” Yosi, 24, a shop owner in Kuta Beach near the blast site told Reuters.

Officials at Bali’s Sanglah hospital said 21 dead had been brought in. They included one Australian and a Japanese national.

At least 85 people, including five South Koreans, had been wounded, officials said.

Australian Jason Childs said he was having dinner along Jimbaran Beach when the bombs went off.

“We helped a few victims on the sand there on the beach and there were a few people lying … on the tables which are out on the beach, dead,” Childs told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, according to its website (www.abc.net.au).

“I didn’t want to walk in there too far, too scared another bomb would go off, and everyone started screaming ‘there’s another bomb’ and everyone started running.”

Local Metro TV said there were two blasts at Jimbaran and two at Kuta. It quoted witnesses who said one of the Jimbaran explosions was near the upmarket Four Seasons Hotel.

Inside the badly damaged Raja restaurant and bar in Kuta Beach, a popular eatery, blood was spattered on the floor. Shattered glass from other shops and cafes littered the street.

People were crying and looked shocked, television pictures showed. Wounded Indonesian victims sat on the pavement, while foreigners appeared to be in panic.

Yudhoyono said it was too soon to blame anyone for the attacks, which security experts said bore the hallmarks of Jemaah Islamiah, a network seen as the regional arm of al Qaeda.

Police have blamed Jemaah Islamiah for a series of attacks against Western targets in the world’s most populous Muslim nation in recent years, including the 2002 Bali blasts. They have launched roughly one major attack each year since then.

“This is clearly a terrorist act … We will catch the perpetrators and punish them,” Yudhoyono told an impromptu news conference in Jakarta, adding he would go to Bali on Sunday.

ANOTHER HEADACHE FOR YUDHOYONO

The attacks pile on the problems for the former general, who marks his first year in office on October 20.

Yudhoyono is also battling an outbreak of deadly bird flu and protests over sharp hikes in domestic fuel prices.

He noted that in July he had received information of an impending attack, with explosives ready to be detonated, but said that information showed the target would be Jakarta.

Ken Conboy, a security and military expert in Jakarta, said attention would focus on Jemaah Islamiah (JI).

“If you look at all the previous JI bombs, we know through interrogation that they considered the Bali bombing was their sole success. They really thought of that as a success, so I guess they’re trying to repeat their earlier success,” he said.

More than 30 militants were eventually caught and convicted over the 2002 Bali attacks.

Bali, 960 km (595 miles) east of Jakarta, is Indonesia’s most popular destination for foreign tourists. While the number of foreign tourists dropped sharply after the attacks three years ago, the island’s key industry has since recovered.

The predominantly Hindu island is home to 3 million people and is famous for its beautiful beaches, rich culture and picture postcard landscapes of rice fields and volcanoes.

(Additional reporting by Telly Nathalia, Karima Anjani and Muklis Ali in Jakarta)

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