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Bali Blasts Blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah

LIANE HANSEN, host:

Indonesian officials today said three bomb attacks on the Indonesian resort island of Bali yesterday were likely the work of suicide bombers. At least 26 people died, and more than 100 others were wounded in the blasts. NPR's Michael Sullivan joins us from Bali.

Michael, elaborate on what officials are saying about the bombers.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN reporting:

Yeah. There doesn't seem to be much question that these three bombings were the work of three separate suicide bombers, and the police have recovered what's left of their bodies, and some top terrorism officials here are saying that the bombers probably wore the explosives strapped around their waists. They haven't identified these men yet, and they haven't identified many of the victims of the bombings yet, either, though hospital officials are saying that the majority of the dead so far appear to be Indonesians but that a large number of foreign tourists are among the injured, and we know that at least two or three foreigners are also among the dead.

HANSEN: Have officials linked the bombers with any particular group?

SULLIVAN: Yeah. They were being really careful about that yesterday and earlier today, but now they're not being careful anymore. I mean, many Indonesian officials are now saying that, based on the evidence so far, it looks like this is the work of the Southeast Asian terrorist group known as Jemaah Islamiyah, and that's what most analysts were saying almost as soon as the bombings occurred yesterday. I mean, this is the group that was responsible for the last Bali bombings in October 2002 that killed more than 200 people and the attack on the J.W. Marriott in Jakarta a year later and last year's attack on the Australian Embassy in Jakarta.

Indonesian officials have been warning that another attack was likely either this month or last, that they had information suggesting the militants were planning such an attack. And one counterterrorism official today said that the suicide bombings yesterday appeared to be the work specifically of two top Jemaah Islamiyah bomb makers, Azahari bin Hussin and Nordin Taht(ph), who eluded police for several years now and are very, very dangerous.

HANSEN: Tell us a little more about the sites that were targeted by these bombers.

SULLIVAN: One of the sites was about 200 years from where I am right now. It's on Jimbaran Beach, and it's an area that's crowded with beach-front restaurants where they actually put the tables and the chairs out on the sand. And it's about a hundred yards, maybe 200 yards from the Four Seasons Resort, and it's about 200 yards from the Intercontinental--I mean, both places where there are many foreign tourists and both places where people just like to come and they like to sit on the beach and have dinners, and on a Saturday night at about 7:30 or 8:00, you can imagine how many people were out there. That was the first set of bombings. The first two bombs went off there.

The other one went off in the crowded commercial area of Kuta, which is about eight or nine miles from here, really a densely packed area and a place that's really crowded with tourists on a weekend evening. And it was a restaurant there that the bomber walked into and apparently detonated his bomb.

HANSEN: So three years ago, when bombers killed more than 200 people in Bali, those bombings seriously hurt the tourism trade there. Had business returned to normal before yesterday?

SULLIVAN: It hadn't returned to normal, but it was slowly, slowly getting there. I mean, you have to remember that 80 percent of the people on this island depend on tourism or are involved in tourism one way or another to make a living. And in October 2002, after the bombings and all the tourists--you know, they just stopped coming, and business just plummeted. And slowly but surely, it had been coming up just a little bit every year to the point where, before yesterday, it was about 90 percent of what it used to be. And now, of course, we see people already beginning to leave again. I mean, tourists are already leaving.

HANSEN: Are the tourists that are there, though--are they staying off the streets?

SULLIVAN: No. In fact--I mean, I went to see both of the locations where the bombs went off last night. I went there today, and there were tourists among the gawkers who were going there to see, you know, what the sites looked like. There were many tourists, and a lot of the tourists who were there that I talked to said, `Look, you know, we're here. We came here 'cause we like Bali. We'll probably come back here to Bali because terrorism can happen anywhere. And it's sad that it has to happen in a place like this, but no place is really safe.' And, you know, the hotels here--the security has been upgraded considerably since the October 2002 bombings, and you have to go through, you know, pretty stringent security to get into a hotel here.

HANSEN: NPR's Michael Sullivan in Bali, Indonesia. You can listen to NPR's recent series, Fighting Terrorism in Southeast Asia, at our Web site, npr.org.

Michael, thanks very much.

SULLIVAN: You're welcome, Liane. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.
Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.