Al-Qaeda in frame after Semtex find

INDONESIAN investigators searching for links between the Bali nightclub attack and the al-Qaeda network were last night interrogating two men after an FBI forensic team found traces of sophisticated plastic explosives at the site of the bombing.

Experts claimed the crucial discovery of traces of Semtex at the Sari Club in Kuta, where almost 200 people died, pointed the finger of blame for the atrocity at a highly-organised terrorist cell and not a renegade faction.

Reports yesterday suggested US intelligence officials had intercepted communications in late September, signalling a strike on tourist sites popular with westerners - including Bali.

At the same time, Moroccan officials confirmed they had broken up plans to target western tourists two months ago, including attacking a popular square in Marrakech.

As Balinese officials revealed the death toll had reached 198, the main suspect in the bombings, Abubaker Baasyir, a Muslim cleric and the head of the al-Qaeda linked Jemaah Islamiah group, continued to deny responsibility.

The Foreign Office confirmed at least nine of the victims were British. A total of 31 Britons, including Stephen Speirs, a businessman from Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, are either dead, missing, or presumed dead.

In his first address to parliament since the attack, Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, condemned the bombing as he continued to justify the decision to fight the war on terrorism on two fronts - against terrorist groups and rogue states who hold weapons of mass destruction.

He said: "What we have to do is to tackle the danger whatever the source of the danger, and if the danger comes from more than one source then we have to tackle the danger in more than one way."

Confirming the use of a hi-tech bomb, Indonesia’s intelligence head, Hendropriyono, revealed that plastic explosives had been traced at the scene.

He said: "We now know that one of the bombs is C4 plastic explosive and it was a highly sophisticated device. We are still trying to establish the make-up of the second bomb."

The use of hi-tech plastic explosives directly contradicts earlier police reports that the bombs were crude devices assembled using only fertiliser and diesel fuel.

It also emerged last night that one of two men in custody in Bali was arrested after an eyewitness placed him at the scene shortly before the bomb went off on Saturday night.

Da’i Bachtiar, the Balinese police chief, said: "We can confirm we are presently interrogating two people intensively and all we can say is they are both Indonesians.

"During questioning, one of the suspects has said he was present when the incident occurred but has refused to comment further."

As the two suspects remained in custody, it was also claimed that ten Pakistanis were under house arrest on the island following a police raid on their rented home in the Balinese capital Denpassar, although officials refused to confirm or deny the move.

Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono, Indonesia’s chief security minister, last night directly blamed al-Qaeda for the attacks, while the state enterprises minister, Laaksamana Sukardi, said he doubted Indonesian groups possessed the ability or fanaticism to carry out such attacks.

Support for military action against Iraq has risen sharply since the attack, according to an opinion poll last night. An ICM survey for the Guardian found 42 per cent backed action against Saddam Hussein, a ten-point jump since last week.


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