Suicide bombers wearing explosive vests targeted tourist resorts on Bali with coordinated attacks that devastated three crowded restaurants on Saturday night, killing at least 25 people. Two al-Qaida-linked fugitives suspected of masterminding the 2002 nightclub bombings on the same Indonesian island may have been involved, a top anti-terrorism official said.
Saturday”s near-simultaneous blasts struck two seafood cafes in the Jimbaran beach resort and a three-story noodle and steakhouse in downtown Kuta. Kuta is the bustling tourist center of Bali where two nightclubs were bombed three years ago, also on a busy Saturday night, killing 202 people.
Maj. Gen. Ansyaad Mbai said he suspected two Malaysian fugitives alleged to be key members of the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror group masterminded the latest attacks. The two are also accused of orchestrating the 2002 bombings which killed mostly foreigners and two other attacks in the Indonesian capital in 2003 and 2004. The latter attacks also involved suicide bombers.
"The modus operandi of Saturday”s attacks is the same as the earlier ones," said Mbai, who identified the two suspected masterminds as Azahari bin Husin and Noordin Mohamed Top.
He said the two were not believed to be among the three suicide attackers. The assailants” remains were found at the bombing scenes but they have not yet been identified, he said.
"I have seen them. All that is left is their head and feet," he told The Associated Press. "By the evidence we can conclude the bombers were carrying the explosives around their waists."
It was not immediately clear whether the three suicide bombers were included in the death toll of 25.
Two Americans were among the 101 people injured.
The latest attacks came a month after Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono warned of possible terrorist attacks. On Saturday, he blamed terrorists and warned that more attacks were possible.
"We will hunt down the perpetrators and bring them to justice," he said.
Western and Indonesian intelligence agencies have warned repeatedly that Jemaah Islamiyah was plotting more attacks in the world”s most populous Muslim country. Last month, Yudhoyono said he was especially worried the extremist network was about to strike.
"I received information at the time that terrorists were planning an action in Jakarta and that explosives were ready," he said Saturday.
Vice President Yusuf Kalla told the British Broadcasting Corp. it was too soon to identify those responsible.
Dozens of people, most of them Indonesian, waited in tears outside the morgue in Sanglah Hospital, near the island”s capital Denpasar, for news of friends and relatives missing since the attacks.
Two Australians and a Japanese citizen were killed, along with 12 Indonesians. Hospital officials were trying to identify the 10 other corpses.
The 101 wounded included 49 Indonesians, 17 Australians, six Koreans, four Japanese and two Americans, officials said.
The White House condemned the "attack aimed at innocent people taking their evening meal."
"We also express our solidarity with the government of Indonesia and convey our readiness to assist in any way," spokeswoman Erin Healy said.
The bombers struck at about 8 p.m. as thousands of diners flocked to restaurants in tourist areas on the bustling, mostly Hindu island, which was just starting to recover from the 2002 blasts.
Baradita Katoppo, an Indonesian tourist from Jakarta, said one of the bombs on Jimbaran beach went off in the Nyoman Cafe, where he was eating with friends. Five minutes later, another explosion rocked a neighboring restaurant filled with diners.
"There was blood on their faces and their bodies," he said. "It was very chaotic and confusing. We didn”t know what to do."
Another witness, I Wayan Kresna, told the private El Shinta radio station that he counted at least two dead near that attack, and many more were taken to the hospital.
"I helped lift up the bodies," he said. "There was blood everywhere."
At almost the same time about 18 miles away in Kuta, a bomb exploded at the three-story Raja restaurant in a bustling outdoor shopping center. The area includes a KFC fast-food restaurant, clothing stores and a tourist information center.
Smoke poured from the badly damaged building.
The bomb apparently went off on the restaurant”s second floor, and an Associated Press reporter saw at least three bodies and five wounded people there.
Before the 2002 bombings, Bali enjoyed a reputation for peace and tranquility, an exception in a country wracked for years by ethnic and separatist violence. Those nightclub blasts killed people from 22 countries, including 88 Australians and seven Americans.
Courts on Bali have convicted dozens of militants for the blasts, and three suspects were sentenced to death.
Since the 2002 attacks, Jemaah Islamiyah has been tied to at least two other bombings in Indonesia, both in Jakarta. Those blasts, one outside the Australian Embassy in 2004 and the other at the J.W. Marriott hotel in 2003, killed at least 23.
The group”s alleged spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, who has been jailed for conspiracy in the 2002 attacks, through a spokesman denied any personal connection to the weekend explosions. There was no statement from the group, which wants to establish an Islamic state across Southeast Asia.
Bashir is known for strong anti-Western and anti-Semitic views but has always maintained his innocence. Fauzan Al Anshari, his spokesman, said the cleric had no involvement in Saturday”s explosions.
"No Muslim would carry out those bombings," he said.
The island”s airport was quiet Sunday. There were no immediate signs of the massive evacuation of foreign visitors that followed of 2002 bombings, which devastated the island”s tourist industry.