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Al-Qaeda linked to McDonalds blast MAKASSAR - Indonesian police on Saturday searched a house linked to a possible al Qaeda suspect in their hunt for those behind two bomb blasts in Sulawesi, including one at a McDonald's restaurant that killed three people. Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has stepped up its anti-terror drive since the October 12 Bali bombings that killed at least 191 people, about half of them foreigners.
But the police officer heading the Bali investigation said on Saturday "there was no relation" between the Bali blasts and the explosions in the Sulawesi city of Makassar. Asked whether the house linked to al Qaeda suspect Agus Dwikarna was being searched in relation to the Sulawesi blasts, South Sulawesi police chief Firman Gani said: "It is based on findings at the crime scene, combined with intelligence reports.
"We have not found any suspects, but our investigation has led us to several people." Dwikarna, an Indonesian, was arrested in the Philippines in March for possessing explosives and has been jailed for a maximum 17 years in prison. Al Qaeda is the United States' prime suspect in last year's September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Dwikarna is also believed to have connections to hardline, anti-U.S. cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, detained by police in Jakarta over a series of bombings in Indonesia. Both men have denied any wrongdoing. Police said the McDonald's blast had been timed to explode when the place was packed with people celebrating the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
The second blast about an hour later was at a used car showroom about four km (three miles) from McDonald's and owned by Indonesia's Social Welfare Minister Yusuf Kalla. There were no casualties from that blast. When asked if police had any prior knowledge of an attack, Gani said: "There was an intelligence report and other indications that several people and places needed to be watched."
Makassar, some 1,400 km (875 miles) east of Jakarta, is among several cities named by a number of embassies in Jakarta as a place to avoid. A little over a year ago, a small crude bomb exploded at a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet in the city, causing minor damage. That explosion came amid rising anti-U.S. sentiment in Indonesia, sparked by the American-led strikes on Afghanistan.
National police chief Da'i Bachtiar told reporters late on Friday that case was now being revisited in light of Thursday's blasts and similarities between the attacks had already emerged. "Investigators reopened the file of that bomb blast case and found that the black powder (in Thursday's blast) was similar from the previous case," Bachtiar told reporters in Makassar.
The island of Sulawesi has been struck by bursts of violence since the downfall of ex-autocrat Suharto in May 1998. In the central Sulawesi area of Poso, about 2,000 people have died in religious violence in recent years.



Posted in Terrorism @ 07 December 2002 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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