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Australian Police: Bali Bombing Arrests Foiled Another Planned Attack - 2003-01-31

Police say arrests in last year's terrorist bombings on the island of Bali helped them foil another planned attack in Indonesia. Authorities believe several key suspects are senior operatives of Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian terrorist network.

Australian Federal Police, working with their Indonesian counterparts, say they uncovered a plot for another terrorist attack in Indonesia. Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty did not say where the planned attack was supposed to happen but that it would have taken place soon after the Bali bombings in October last year.

Commissioner Keelty told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that investigators were able to foil the attack after arresting two important Bali suspects, Ali Imron and Imam Samudra - members of Jemaah Islamiyah. "If it wasn't for the work of Indonesian national police and we've assisted in that, I think we would have probably had another event occur, using the skills and the knowledge that Jemaah Islamiyah has accumulated over time," he said.

Police have blamed the Bali bombings on JI, a radical Islamic group they believe is linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network. This week, Indonesian authorities confirmed that JI's spiritual leader, Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, had given "his blessing" to the Bali attacks.

About 190 people were killed when terrorists bombed two nightclubs at a popular tourist beach in Bali. The dead included 88 Australian tourists.

Mr. Bashir was arrested for questioning soon after the Bali attacks, but has not been formally charged in the case. However, he is facing prosecution for a string of Christmas Eve Christian church bombings around Indonesia two years ago.

Commissioner Keelty said investigators have gained in-depth knowledge of Jemaah Islamiyah. This new knowledge, he said, heightens the sense of urgency felt by law enforcement agencies in the region. "It has been a very sophisticated operation by Jemaah Islamiyah, and our knowledge of Jemaah Islamiyah and its operations in the region now - unfortunately through the Bali bombings - is much greater than it ever would have been," he said.

Indonesian police have arrested more than two dozen people in the Bali bombing case. Police say at least three of the suspects are members of Jemaah Islamiyah. Others suspects, including three Malaysians, are still being sought.