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Jakarta Bombers Fail To Destroy US House - 2002-09-23


One person has been killed in a failed attempt to blow up a house belonging to the American Embassy in Jakarta. Indonesian police are investigating if the attackers have any terrorist links. The blast occurred about 3:30 a.m. Monday morning in Jakarta.

Indonesia's national police chief, D'ai Bachtiar, said that four people, who were traveling in a car, intended to throw a grenade at a vacant house belonging to the U.S. Embassy when the grenade exploded prematurely. One of the attackers died and the car crashed in front of the house.

The three survivors of the blast tried to flee, but one suspect was stopped and held by local residents. He is being interrogated by authorities.

It is not yet clear who the attackers are or their motives. The U.S. Embassy issued a statement saying there are no indications American interests were being targeted.

But the explosion comes at a time of heightened security concerns in Indonesia. The American Embassy was closed for nearly a week this month, due to what diplomats says was credible and specific terrorist threats on the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the United States.

U.S. officials are particularly concerned about a suspected terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which has cells operating in several Southeast Asia countries and evidence the group has links to al-Qaida. The alleged JI leader is an Indonesian Muslim cleric who denies any involvement in terrorism but is ardently anti-American.

Mainstream Islamic organizations in Indonesia are concerned that U.S. efforts to crackdown on terrorists in the region are being perceived as anti-Islamic. Leaders such as Din Syamsuddin, head of the Indonesian Council of Ulamas, an umbrella organization that groups 60 Indonesian Islamic organizations, say American pressure on Jakarta could backfire and make it more difficult for Indonesian officials to deal with radical or violent groups.

"We don't agree," said Mr. Syamsuddin, "because many diplomats from the US, and including a special adviser from the White House, came to see us and insisting for us, the Indonesian Council of Ulama and together with the most influential Islamic organizations in the country, as the mainstream of Indonesian Islam to come forward, confronting this radical groups, we say no. That's our internal problems. They are the children of the Ulama, so we have our own way to contain us and bring them to our spirit that's the moderate Islam."

The governments of Singapore and Malaysia, which have arrested scores of Jemaah Islamiah terrorist suspects, complain that Indonesia is not doing enough to investigate and stop the group.

The Indonesian government says it is aware of the allegations, but has not seen any hard proof that JI is active in Indonesia or that its members here are involved in terrorist activities.

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