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Australia to Help in Bali Bombing Investigation - 2002-10-15

Australia's foreign minister says Canberra is helping Indonesia investigate the deadly bombing in Bali. Alexander Downer also says that the Australians were not necessarily targeted in Saturday's attack. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Justice Minister Chris Ellison laid flowers at the site of the bomb blast Tuesday morning.

Authorities say 22 Australians are known to be among the more than 180 killed in the blast, which tore apart two popular bars in a crowded tourist district. That number is likely to climb, because roughly 160 Australians are still missing. Officials also say it is likely some bodies were disintegrated by the explosion, leaving no body parts to be identified.

Mr. Downer says he does not believe the bombers were after only Australians. "We don't have any evidence that Australians were deliberately targeted. We think more likely foreigners more generally were deliberately targeted." Mr. Downer travels to the Indonesian capital Jakarta later Tuesday for talks with President Megawati Sukarnoputri and Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Officials in neighboring countries have charged for months that Indonesia was not doing enough to combat terrorism. Indonesia's Defense Minister said Tuesday that local terrorists worked with the al-Qaida terror network to carry out the bombing. It was the first time a top official acknowledged the presence of terrorists on Indonesian soil.

Some analysts in Asia suspect an Indonesian radical group called Jemaah Islamiah had a role in the bombing. JI, as the group is called, wants to create a pan-Islamic state across Southeast Asia, and is alleged to have links to al-Qaida.

Mr. Downer says it is most important now to cooperate with Indonesia's investigation of the bombing. "We have to as an international community, particularly Australia, work with Indonesia. That's the great challenge," he says. "Getting into a game of international criticism is not a good idea. They've been positive in their cooperation with us since the night of the 12th of October.

Indonesia says it lacks the evidence to arrest the alleged leader of JI, cleric Abu Bakar Bashir. Mr. Bashir says he had nothing to do with the bombing. He says the United States probably set off the bomb to justify Washington's allegations that Indonesia is a terrorist base.