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Indonesian Official: Foreigners May be Behind Bali Bombings - 2002-10-17


Indonesia's top security minister says foreigners may be behind the deadly bomb blast that tore through a crowded tourist area a few days ago. The comments came just before Australia's prime minister arrived in Bali to tour the area where more than 180 people died. Security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says authorities are not certain who carried out the devastating bombing in Bali. But he says it may have been the work of foreigners, possibly with the help of Indonesians. Mr. Yudhoyono also says the leader of an Indonesian militant group - Jemaah Islamiah - or JI, may face legal action, if authorities establish a link between it and the bombing.

The group's alleged leader, Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, denies having terrorist links. The group has urged the creation of an Islamic state in much of Southeast Asia, and reportedly is affiliated with the al-Qaida terror network.

Mr. Yudhoyono made his comment in Bali where he went Thursday to meet officials and members of the international team investigating the explosions. At least 180 people died and more than 200 were hurt in the attack Saturday; most of the victims were foreign tourists.

Mr. Yudhoyono, however, says it is too early to release much information about the investigation. "Trust us that together with our friendly nations we are conducting thorough investigations as quickly as possible, using all systems we have."

Also Thursday, Indonesian newspapers report the bombing was carried out by a group of seven to eight people, led by someone from the Middle East. The reports, which refer to unnamed intelligence sources, differ as to whether the group was made up entirely of foreigners or if Indonesians were involved. Police in Bali said Wednesday that they expected to officially name two Indonesians as suspects in the attacks. They provided no other details. Australian Prime Minister John Howard and other leading Australian politicians are visiting Bali Thursday afternoon. Mr. Howard is expected to attend a sunset memorial service near the bombing site. Australians appear to make up the largest number of the dead and injured.

In addition to attending the service, Mr. Howard will assess the situation in Bali. Earlier this week, the Australian foreign minister and other officials visited the area.

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