Indonesia Suspects Fugitive Terrorist in Bombings

Kompas.com - 18/07/2009, 17:19 WIB
Editor

JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com-Investigators worked Saturday to identify a pair of suicide bombers who attacked two American luxury hotels in Indonesia’s capital, and health officials confirmed at least four of the dead were foreigners.

Suspicions hardened that the blasts were masterminded by Noordin Top, a Malaysian fugitive who heads a breakaway faction of the Southeast Asian militant network Jemaah Islamiyah.

“I’m 200 percent sure this was his work,” said Nasir Abbas, a former Jemaah Islamiyah leader turned police informant who has worked with police on investigations into Indonesia’s last three terrorist attacks.

Suicide bombers posing as guests attacked the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta on Friday, setting off a pair of blasts that killed eight people and wounded more than 50, authorities said.

A police investigator also told The Associated Press on Saturday that Noordin was the most likely suspect. “Considering the target, the location and content of the bombs, it was clearly the work of Noordin,” the investigator said, declining to give his name because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.

He said police had confiscated handwritten notes, a cell phone and a bomb encased in a laptop computer from room 1808 of the Marriott, where the bombers had apparently prepared for the blasts. The investigator said a hotel receptionist told police that the man who checked into the room gave his name as “Nurdin.” He gave a $1,000 cash deposit because he had no credit card, he said.

Authorities have not officially named a suspect, but suspicion quickly fell on Jemaah Islamiyah or its allies. The al-Qaida-linked network is blamed for past attacks in Indonesia, including a 2003 bombing at the Marriott in which 12 people died.

The heads of four of the bodies recovered from the blast scenes — two at each hotel — had been blown off, the police investigator said. It has been nearly four years since the last major terrorist attack in the world’s most populous Muslim nation — a triple suicide bombing at restaurants on the resort island of Bali that killed 20
people.

Friday’s strikes raised questions about security gaps at high-end hotels, which have become popular targets for militants in recent years, most notably in Mumbai, India, where attacks in November killed 164 people.

Security was boosted at sites frequented by Westerners across the Indonesian capital of 13 million, where hotels already screen every vehicle, and guests enter through metal detectors. However, many visitors say searches are often cursory.

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