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Australian Official Blames Islamic Terror Group for Jakarta Bombing - 2004-09-10

Thursday's bomb outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta is now known to have killed nine people and injured around 180. Australia's foreign minister says a warning was received shortly before the blast, and the evidence so far suggests that Islamic militants were responsible.

A statement posted on a militant website claimed the blast was carried out by Jemaah Islamiyah, the terrorist group behind both the Bali nightclub bombing in 2002 and last year's attack on the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta.

The statement said the group had "decided to make Australia pay."

A police official said Friday the make of the vehicle used in the bombing had been identified, and said it had been driven by at least one suicide bomber.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer revealed that about 45 minutes before the bomb went off, Indonesian police received a text message warning of an attack on a Western embassy unless the alleged leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Bakar Bashir, was released from prison. Mr. Downer visited the embassy area Friday morning, and said all signs were that Jemaah Islamiyah, which is linked to the al Qaida terrorist network, was behind this latest bombing.

"We don't know of course at this stage, I mean, we are less than 24 hours since the bomb went off, but from both talking to the Indonesians and from talking to our intelligence and police this was more likely than not to have been an atrocity perpetrated by Jemaah Islamiyah," said Mr. Downer.

All the dead in the blast were Indonesian. The only severely injured Australian is a five-year-old girl, Elisabeth Manuela Musu, whose father is Australian.

She only became an Australian citizen on September 1, and was traveling to the embassy with her Indonesian mother to pick up her first passport. Her mother was killed in the blast, and hospital authorities say the little girl is in severe but stable condition. She was being airlifted to Singapore Friday for specialist medical treatment.

Australia has become a target because of its support for Washington's war on terror, but Prime Minister John Howard said Friday that the bomb would not make him reconsider his country's commitment to the war in Iraq or the wider battle against terrorism.

Mr. Downer has offered the assistance of Australia's security forces to the Indonesian police, and Australian officials said some of the same policemen who aided the Indonesians in the investigation of the October 2002 Bali bombing are in Jakarta to help with the aftermath of Thursday's blast.

The two forces have cooperated well in the past, particularly on Bali bombing, which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

More than 30 people have been arrested following that investigation, and three have been sentenced to death.