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Australia Condemns Bomb Attack, Suspects Jemaah Islamiyah Involvement - 2004-09-09

The Australian government has condemned a bomb attack on its embassy in Indonesia Thursday, which killed at least seven people. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says the blast was "clearly a terrorist attack" aimed at Australia.

Mr. Downer suggests that the Islamic group Jemaah Islamiyah, J.I., could be involved.

"Naturally enough, our suspicion turns to Jemaah Islamiyah," he said. "We had some advice a few days ago of possible terrorist attack in Jakarta focusing on Western-style hotels. And we changed our travel advisory to take that into account but we didn't have any information on a specific attack on the Australian Embassy at this time."

Members of the radical organization have been convicted of carrying out the bomb attacks on the Indonesian island of Bali in October 2002. The blasts killed 202 people, 88 of them Australian tourists.

Mr. Downer was traveling to Indonesia later Thursday with senior police officers and members of the intelligence services.

Police in Jakarta have said the explosion was bigger than the blast at the Marriott Hotel in the Indonesian capital, which killed 12 people last year. J.I. members also have been linked to that attack.

The Australian Embassy had been secured to protect it against attacks, so it suffered little damage and the Australian government says all Australian staff inside the building are reported to be safe. However, a security guard at the gate is thought to be among the dead, and some Indonesian employees could not be immediately accounted for.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard says his country will not be intimidated by the attack, which comes in the middle of a national election campaign.

Canberra's support for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq is expected to be a key issue in the poll, which takes place in a month's time.