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Two men intensely questioned in Bali blasts KUTA - U.S. diplomatic and intelligence officials say in the two weeks before the Bali bombings, they repeatedly passed threat information to the Indonesian government suggesting terrorists were planning attacks in that country, including attacks against "Western tourist sites." The most recent warning came just a day before the Saturday Bali blasts, U.S. government sources said.
A U.S. State Department notice issued last Thursday also warned that terrorists in Indonesia might attack non-official targets such as "clubs, schools, places of worship." Bali -- where nearly 200 people were killed in back-to-back nightclub explosions -- was among the many locations the United States told Indonesia were threatened, U.S. officials said.
The U.S. warnings were made at a variety of levels, officials said, including during meetings between the U.S. ambassador and President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Sources said the threat information was also shared with the Australian government. Officials said the threat information was "vague, not specific." But one official added: "There was a lot of it."
The threat information came not only from Omar Al-Faruq -- the Kuwaiti-born al Qaeda operative under interrogation by the United States at an undisclosed location -- but also from a variety of other intelligence sources, officials said. The officials declined to be more specific.
Since September, Al-Faruq has warned of plots against a number of targets in Southeast Asia. Both The New York Times and the Washington Post reported Wednesday that the United States invited Indonesian intelligence and law enforcement officials to interview Al-Faruq themselves, and that they were doing so on the day of the bloody attacks in Bali.
Al-Faruq was detained by Indonesian authorities in Java in June, and then turned over to the United States. Before the Bali bombings, Indonesian officials repeatedly expressed skepticism that al Qaeda was active in their country or that the local group Jemaah Islamiah was plotting major attacks, with encouragement from al Qaeda. Since the attacks, Indonesian Defense Minister Matori Abdul Djalil has been quoted as saying he recognizes al Qaeda has a presence in his country. President Megawati has remained silent on the issue.
Meanwhile, Indonesian police are neither confirming nor denying a Washington Post report that a former air force officer has confessed to making the bombs. Citing an unnamed Indonesian security official, the Washington Post reported that the suspect regretted the loss of life but would not disclose who ordered him to make the bombs. Australia has posted a $2 million (U.S. $1.1 million) reward for information leading to those responsible for the blasts that killed as many as 200 people, mostly Australian tourists.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard said the group most likely behind the blast is the extremist organization, Jemaah Islamiah. He said he would ask the United Nations to list it as a terrorist group. Jemaah Islamiah's leader, Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, denied his group's involvement and blamed "foreign parties," including the United States.
Meanwhile, Indonesian authorities intensely questioned two men Wednesday. One is Balinese, according to the national police chief. He reported seeing someone enter a nightclub across the street from Sari's nightclub and put down a white plastic bag, the chief said. A small explosion was followed soon after by the huge car bomb in front of Sari's, where most of the victims died. The other man being questioned is the only surviving security guard at Sari's, officials said.
Authorities were also talking to the relatives of two Indonesian men whose identity cards were found in the rubble. The men themselves, said to be from East Java and Lombok, have not been located, but officials want to know why they were there. Police Chief Dai Bahtiar said one of the two men being questioned has a connection to one of the men whose identity card was found at the blast sites. The other man being interrogated may also be linked to the owner of one of the identity cards.
Wednesday, intelligence and forensic experts from Indonesia, the United States, Japan and Australia combed through the charred debris, looking for clues in the worst terrorist attack since September 11. Authorities said the explosives that leveled a block in the tourist district were planted in a car. Police said they hadn't determined whether it was a suicide bombing.
Tuesday, Indonesian police said traces of C4 explosives were found at the blast site. The putty-like explosive was the same kind used in a blast in August 2000 outside the Philippine ambassador's home in Jakarta. That blast, in which two people died, was also blamed on Jemaah Islamiah.

Link to related event Related event:
Bali terrorist attack

Posted in Terrorism @ 17 October 2002 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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