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Police hunt for Bali bombing masterminds | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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KUTA BEACH, Indonesia (Reuters) -Police on Monday scrutinized an amateur video tape showing a man apparently with a backpack entering a Bali restaurant seconds before one of three suicide bombings that killed up to 27 people and wounded 122.

A top anti-terrorism official said the investigation into Saturday”s attacks was focusing on Islamic militants blamed for previous bloody bombings in the world”s most populous Muslim nation.

Investigators released chilling video footage late on Sunday of a man in a black shirt and jeans strolling into a restaurant on the resort island, followed almost instantly by an explosion.

Three separate bombs tore through restaurants packed with Saturday evening diners, many of them foreign tourists. Two were outdoor seafood eateries on Jimbaran Beach and one a steak bar at Kuta Beach, an area surrounded by popular shops.

Most foreign tourists appeared to be staying in Bali, unlike the mass exodus after the nightclub bombings by al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militants three years ago which killed 202 people.

&#34Up until 2 o”clock yesterday there had been no exodus and the arrival rate was normal, but I”m not saying that there is no or little impact from this incident,&#34 I Gde Pitana, a senior official at Indonesia”s National Tourism Ministry, told Reuters.

The attacks were the latest of a series of bombings in Indonesia in recent years. Several have been against Western targets, hurting tourism and raising investors” security fears.

Markets were largely unaffected by Saturday”s nearly simultaneous blasts.

Asked on Monday if Jemaah Islamiah militants appeared to be behind the blasts, Ansyaad Mbai, a top Indonesian counter-terrorism official, said: &#34&#34Yes, the investigation is moving to that direction.&#34

In terms of whether that specifically meant Jemaah Islamiah and two of its fugitive leaders, Malaysians Azahari bin Husin and Noordin M. Top, Mbai told Reuters:

&#34What is clear and important from this incident is that all those groups who have been here for some time still have the capabilities to operate. This group is not dead.&#34

Mbai, head of the counter-terrorism desk at the office of the chief security minister, said he thought Azahari and Top were still in Indonesia. &#34The latest incident clearly shows they have activities,&#34 he added.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla told reporters, when asked about JI involvement: &#34We just wait until the investigation result is announced. What we know so far is only that this was suicide bombing. I hope we can arrest the perpetrators soon.&#34

Indonesia”s police were placed on top alert nationwide.

One reason experts link Jemaah Islamiah to the blasts is the use of suicide bombers, typical of their attacks.

Bali police chief Made Mangku Pastika said the severed heads of three people believed to be the suicide bombers had been recovered. Photos of the heads displayed by police appeared to show they were young Asian men.

On Monday morning a team of what appeared to be four foreign forensics experts was seen entering the Kuta Beach bomb site. Australia has said it would send investigators to help.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility. Typically groups have not taken credit for major bombings in Indonesia.

Bali hospital officials said on Monday that 16 of 27 dead had so far been identified — 14 Indonesians, one Australian and one Japanese.

Hospital officials had said earlier that the wounded included 64 Indonesians, 20 Australians, seven South Koreans, four Americans, three Japanese, one French, and one German, with other nationalities unknown.

Most of the victims were being treated at nearby Denpasar hospital, while others were flown to Darwin in northern Australia and Singapore.

Many Australians cut short their stay on Bali, 960 km (595 miles) east of Jakarta, which is Indonesia”s most popular destination for foreign tourists.

&#34Our hotel is opposite where the blast went off. We are not happy we”re staying here. We are going home tonight,&#34 said Gail Cross, from Australia. &#34I do love Bali. But I have children. And what has happened has frightened us.&#34