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ASIA: Malaysian extremist behind Indonesia attacks: official

By Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo
Sun Jul 19 02:29:21 EST 2009

JAKARTA, July 18 AFP/AAP - A Malaysian extremist wanted for a string of terror attacks has been named as the likely culprit behind suicide bombings at two luxury hotels in Indonesia that left eight dead, including three Australians, and 55 injured.

Police searched on Saturday for clues in the debris at the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels, located in an upmarket Jakarta business district, which were rocked by explosions during the busy breakfast period on Friday.

DNA evidence from the remains of two suspected suicide bombers and explosives found in their "control centre" in a Marriott guestroom were examined as security was tightened across Indonesia.

Five foreigners -- three Australians, a New Zealander and a Singaporean -- were identified among the dead as Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda put the total toll at eight, including the bombers.

Perth businessman Nathan Verity, 38, and Canberra Austrade official Craig Senger, 36, are now officially "presumed dead".

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said on Saturday that Australia "feared the worst" for Brisbane businessman Garth McEvoy, 54, but was unable to confirm he had been killed.

However Indonesian police said McEvoy was among the dead.

New Zealander Tim Mackay, 62, and an Indonesian named as Darmanto were also among the dead. The two suicide bombers are yet to be identified.

There has been confusion over the toll, and national police spokesman Nanan Soekarna has concurred with an earlier health ministry figure by saying that nine were killed including five at the Marriott.

"There were three dead at the Ritz-Carlton. We found a severed head of a male and two headless bodies, one belonging to a male and the other a female. The head and the body of the males don't match," he said.

Soekarna said 16 foreigners had been injured, including six Americans, two Dutch, one Australian, two Canadians, one Indian, two South Koreans, one New Zealander and one Norwegian.

Victorian father Scott Merrillees received leg and ear injuries in the attacks and was receiving treatment at a hospital in Singapore.

Indonesia's National police chief General Bambang Hendarso Danuri called on hotels and shopping malls across the vast, mainly Muslim archipelago of 234 million people to raise their security protocols in response to the bombings.

The attacks triggered the cancellation of a planned Manchester United friendly against an Indonesian All-Star team scheduled for Monday, a decision that caused great dismay among Indonesian football fans.

On Saturday the glamour side rejected an Indonesian presidential aide's plea to reconsider their decision, saying it had not been made lightly.

"Everyone at the club is disappointed not to be able to play in Indonesia, but it has a responsibility to its players and staff," it said in a statement.

No group has claimed responsibility for the bombings, but the security ministry's anti-terror desk chief, Ansyaad Mbai, told AFP that evidence pointed to Malaysian-born extremist Noordin Mohammed Top.

"There are strong indications that Noordin Top's group is behind the attacks because the bombs were hand-made and the tactic was suicide bombings," he said.

It is the fourth attack in Indonesia allegedly masterminded by Noordin after bombings at the Jakarta Marriott in 2003, the Australian embassy in 2004 and Bali restaurants in 2005 which have killed more than 40 people.

He is a violent jihadist, a master bomb-maker and the leader of the most extreme splinter group of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terror network blamed for the 2002 bombings of nightclubs in Bali which killed 202 people.

Investigators said they found an unexploded bomb and bomb-making materials in room 1808 of the Marriott, which they believe served as the attackers' operations centre.

They said the bombers stayed in the room for two nights before the attacks and disguised themselves as guests when they walked into crowded dining and meeting areas and detonated their suitcase devices.

The bombs -- brought fully assembled into the hotels despite airport-style security measures -- were packed with nails, ballbearings, nuts and bolts to maximise the carnage.

Police said they were "identical" to ones previously used in JI attacks, and were also the same as bombs found in a raid last week on an Islamic boarding school in Central Java, carried out as part of the hunt for Noordin.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was re-elected in a landslide on July 8, said the attack was an act of terror that would have "wide effects on our economy, trade, tourism and image in the eyes of the world".

Tourism is one of the biggest sources of foreign capital for South-East Asia's biggest economy, which has avoided recession in the global financial crisis, but needs more foreign investment to maintain its growth trajectory.

Foreign ministers of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Bangkok on Saturday denounced the bomb attacks and backed the Indonesian government's efforts to fight terrorism.

Indonesia's mainstream Muslim groups joined Yudhoyono and world leaders including US President Barack Obama in condemning the attacks, saying they could never be justified in Islamic teachings.