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22 die as al-Qaeda bombs Bali again

TERRORISTS brought death and destruction to the holiday paradise of Bali once again yesterday, claiming Western tourists among the scores of victims.

At least 25 people were reported dead and 100 injured after three bombs exploded, one of them in the bustling town of Kuta, where more than 200 died almost three years ago to the day.

Police immediately declared the attacks in Kuta and Jimbaran beach, a luxury resort, as the work of terrorists, with Jemaah Islamiyah - the al-Qaeda-linked group responsible for the 2002 carnage - the most likely culprits.

The blasts occurred almost simultaneously as diners settled down to enjoy their evening meals at 7:30pm local time.

Last night, there were no reports of any Britons killed in the blasts but the Foreign Office confirmed one British woman with dual Australian nationality was seriously injured and another Briton sustained minor injuries.

Relatives faced a lengthy wait for news as travel firms and UK officials attempted to trace Britons known to have been in the targeted areas.

Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned the bombings and the Foreign Office said Britons should think "very, very carefully" about travelling to Bali, though there were no specific threats.

Eyewitness Wayan Kresna said the first bomb went off at a seafood restaurant on Jimbaran beach, where it is thought two separate explosions took place. "I helped lift up the bodies. There was blood everywhere," he said.

Another witness said: "It's a horrible scene. Some people have had their heads blown off."

Baradita Katoppo, an Indonesian tourist from Jakarta, was eating dinner with friends in Jimbaran when the two bombs detonated.

"I could see other people sustained injuries... there was blood on their faces and their bodies. It was very chaotic and confusing.We didn't know what to do."

In Kuta, the third bomb went off at a noodle and steak house in a busy shopping centre. Bodies were seen strewn across the floor after the attack.

Police said that at least 10 Indonesians, one Australian and one Japanese tourist were among the dead. The injured included 49 Indonesians, 17 Australians, two Americans, six Koreans, three Japanese and two Americans.

Police major-general Ansyaad Mbai, a top Indonesian anti-terrorism official, immediately declared that the blasts "were clearly the work of terrorists".

There were also reports that Indonesian police were searching for two Malaysian fugitives known to be senior members of Jemaah Islamiyah, whom they believe may be linked to yesterday's attacks.

The group's top bomb-maker, Azabari bin Husin, 48, who studied for a doctorate at Reading University in the 1990s, is suspected of involvement.

The engineer, who is known by fellow Malaysians as "Demolition Man", spent time in one of Osama bin Laden's Afghan training camps.

If Jemaah Islamiyah is confirmed as being responsible, it will be the fourth lethal attack on Westerners in Indonesia in as many years.

As well as the 2002 Bali blasts, the group has also been tied to attacks on the Marriott Hotel in the capital Jakarta, and another outside the Australian embassy in 2004.

Western and Indonesian intelligence agencies have consistently warned that the group was plotting more atrocities.

Last month, president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he was especially worried the extremist network was about to carry out more bombings.

Last night, Yudhoyono said: "We will hunt down the perpetrators and bring them to justice."

He urged everyone "to be on alert".

The explosion in Kuta tore apart the three-storey Raja restaurant situated within the Matahari shopping centre, a popular destination for the mainly Australian tourists who flock to the island every year.

The blast is believed to have detonated on the second floor of the restaurant and may have been the work of a suicide bomber.

In Jimbaran - a resort in the southern part of the island popular with couples and families - one blast ripped through the Nyoman Cafe beside the beach. Minutes later another explosion rocked a neighbouring seafood restaurant, destroying nearby buildings.

Pribadi Sutiono, councillor for information at the Indonesian Embassy in London, said: "Both places are popular with Australian people who regard Bali as their second home."

"Kuta is best for shopping and is popular because of the beach. Jimbaran is good for a night out."

A spokeswoman for Thomas Cook said the company had 30 holidaymakers in Bali but none had been caught up in the blasts.

Ken Conboy, author of a forthcoming book on southeast Asian terrorism, said the bombings had all the hallmarks of Jemaah Islamiyah.

"It looks like Jemaah Islamiyah," he said. "They saw the 2002 Bali bombing as their only true success because it inflicted foreign casualties and the collateral damage weren't Muslims."

Claire Braden, whose brother Daniel was among the 28 Britons killed in the 2002 Bali bombings, said: "It's just very upsetting to see it happening again and it brings it all back. I'm just hoping it's not on the same scale as it was when Daniel was killed."

Braden, from Brighton, has helped set up a group called the Encompass Trust, bringing Indonesians to the UK to promote understanding of different faiths and societies.

Members of the UK Bali Bombing Victims Group were planning a trip to the island for the third anniversary of the blasts on October 12 but did not know whether the trip would now go ahead, she added.

The father of an Australian victim of the 2002 bombings condemned the latest attacks as "revolting". Brian Deegan, whose 21-year-old son Josh died in the nightclub attacks - along with 88 Australians - said he had been grimly awaiting the third anniversary of his son's death.

He said: "It's just devastating. I know now that there are other dads and mums out there that are just going to join the queue and I just find this revolting. I feel so sorry for them and I feel so despondent for them. It's just so needless, so pointless."

Bournemouth East Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood lost his 37-year-old brother Jonathan in the 2002 blasts.

Ellwood said: "It's a stark and horrific reminder of the events of three years ago and how much still needs to be done to deal with terrorism, whether in Bali or in London."

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office confirmed a rugby team, with some British members, were all safe. She said an emergency team would be sent to the island from Hong Kong to help in the aftermath of the bombings.

 
 
 

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