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First Conviction Handed Down in Bali Bombing Case - 2003-08-07

An Indonesian court has handed down its first conviction in last year's terrorist bombing on Bali - which killed more than 200 people. Police say Amrozi bin Nurhaysim is a member of a regional terror group linked to al-Qaeda.

The courtroom bursts into applause as a judge declares Amrozi bin Nurhaysim guilty and sentences him to death. The man known as the smiling bomber pumped his hand in the air at the verdict, as if to celebrate.

The 41-year-old from East Java confessed to buying the van and the chemicals used to make a car bomb and took them to Bali. The bomb was set off October 12 on a street lined with restaurants and bars, killing 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

Amrozi's lawyers said they would appeal the verdict.

Police say Amrozi is a member of Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional terrorist organization linked to the al-Qaeda network. J.I. reportedly wants to build an Islamic state across Southeast Asia.

The Bali bomb prompted worldwide concern about a rise in Islamic extremism in Southeast Asia and led to a crackdown against suspected militants in the region.

Indonesian police say they are investigating whether J.I. carried out a bombing Tuesday at the J.W. Marriot hotel in the Indonesian capital. Ten people died in the bombing and more than 100 were injured.

Authorities say a car bomb destroyed much of the hotel lobby, set fires and shattered windows as high as 20 stories. Many of the victims were taxi drivers and security guards. All but one of those killed were Indonesian.

The police say the hotel bomb has some similarities to the Bali case, but have not said who might be responsible for the latest attack.

Sidney Jones is an analyst with the Jakarta office of a European think-tank, the International Crisis Group. She says it is likely the Jakarta bomb was set in retaliation for a broader crackdown against extremists, and not in response to Amrozi's trial.

"I think probably it could be linked to the whole pattern of a crackdown on Jemaah Islamiyah, the recent arrests of a couple weeks ago of J.I. suspects in Semarangm in Bekasi and so on; earlier arrests in Palu in April, the trials more generally and so on," he said.

The Marriot is a luxury hotel popular with Westerners and wealthy Indonesian business people.

The Indonesian government on Wednesday outlined a plan to improve security in public spaces and office buildings. The U.S. and Australian governments have warned that there could be more attacks against Western targets in Indonesia.