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US: Obama condemns Jakarta bombings

By Matthew Lee And Devlin Barrett
Sat Jul 18 02:07:22 EST 2009

WASHINGTON, July 17 AP - President Barack Obama has condemned the "outrageous attacks" on two hotels in the Indonesian capital, and US officials say at least eight Americans were among those wounded in the suicide bombings.

None of the eight suffered life-threatening injuries, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said on Friday. All had been treated, and two were taken to Singapore for additional medical care, he said.

At least eight people died and more than 50 were wounded when suicide bombers who had checked in as guests detonated themselves on Friday at two American hotels in Jakarata - a J W Marriott and a Ritz-Carlton.

"I strongly condemn the attacks that occurred this morning in Jakarta, and extend my deepest condolences to all of the victims and their loved ones," said Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia.

A US official said Obama planned to call Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the bombings as "senseless" in a statement issued from the Czech Republic, as she travelled on to India.

Obama and Clinton pledged US support for the Indonesian government. They said attacks underscored the need to remain steadfast in the fight against violent extremism.

"We will continue to partner with Indonesia to eliminate the threat from these violent extremists, and we will be unwavering in supporting a future of security and opportunity for the Indonesian people," Obama said.

Clinton said the attacks "reflect the viciousness of violent extremists, and remind us that the threat of terrorism remains very real".

"We have no higher priority than confronting this threat along with other countries that share our commitment to a more peaceful and prosperous future," she said in Prague on her way to India and Thailand. In Thailand, Clinton will attend a South-East Asian security meeting where the attacks are likely to be high on the agenda.

After the attacks, Yudhoyono said they were carried out by a terrorist group and vowed to arrest the perpetrators. He also suggested a possible link to the national election last week that is expected to hand him another five-year term as president.

Suspicion would likely fall on the South-East Asian Islamist militant group Jemaah Islamiyah or its allies. The network is blamed for past attacks in Indonesia, including a 2003 bombing at the Marriott when 12 people died.

A former top US counterterrorism official in the Bush administration said the attacks underscore the threat represented by numerous key Jemaah Islamiyah operatives still on the loose.

Juan Zarate, now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the new attacks may also represent an effort by the terror faction to regain the attention of al-Qaeda. He cautioned, though, that the bombings alone do not suggest a reunification with al-Qaeda.

"American officials worry still today about the potential reconnection of JI to al-Qaeda in a more substantive way, because those ties largely have been broken," Zarate said.