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Indonesia suspects fugitive terrorist in bombings

INVESTIGATORS worked today to identify a pair of suicide bombers who attacked two American luxury hotels in Indonesia's capital, and health officials confirmed at least four of the dead were foreigners.

Suspicions hardened that the blasts were masterminded by Noordin Top, a Malaysian who heads a breakaway faction of the Southeast Asian militant network Jemaah Islamiyah.

"I'm 200 percent sure this was his work," said Nasir Abbas, a former Jemaah Islamiyah leader turned police informant who has worked with police on investigations into Indonesia's last three terrorist attacks.

Suicide bombers posing as guests attacked the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta yesterday, setting off a pair of blasts that killed eight people and wounded more than 50, authorities said.

A police investigator also told The Associated Press today that Noordin was the most likely suspect.

"Considering the target, the location and content of the bombs, it was clearly the work of Noordin," the investigator said, declining to give his name because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

He said police had confiscated handwritten notes, a mobile phone and a bomb encased in a laptop computer from room 1808 of the Marriott, where the bombers had apparently prepared for the blasts.

The investigator said a hotel receptionist told police that the man who checked into the room gave his name as "Nurdin." He put down a $1,000 cash deposit because he had no credit card.

Authorities have not officially named a suspect, but suspicion quickly fell on Jemaah Islamiyah or its allies. The al-Qaida-linked network is blamed for past attacks in Indonesia, including a 2003 bombing at the Marriott in which 12 people died.

The police investigator said the heads of four of the victims had been blown off in yesterday's blasts.

The Health Ministry crisis center has identified five of the dead - two from Australia, one from New Zealand, one from Singapore and one from Indonesia.

Family members of one Australian victim, Perth businessman Nathan Verity, were expected to identify his body today before taking him home to be buried, the Australian Associated Press reported, quoting a family friend.

The dead New Zealander was identified by his employer as Timothy David Mackay, 61, who worked for cement products manufacturer PT Holcim Indonesia. He was reportedly attending a business meeting at the Marriott.

Police will provide more details about their investigation later today, said Brig. Gen. Sulistyo Ishak, deputy spokesman for the national police.

Officials said 17 foreigners were among the wounded, including eight Americans and citizens of Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea and Britain.

None of the Americans suffered life-threatening injuries, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.

Two of those wounded at the Ritz-Carlton were employees of Phoenix-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc., said Bill Collier, a company spokesman. He declined to identity the two men or their nationalities, citing company policy, but said their injuries were not life-threatening.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith was expected to arrive in Jakarta early today afternoon for a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio shortly before departing, Smith said he wanted to show that his country stood "shoulder-to-shoulder with Indonesia at this terrible time."

The bombings, which came two minutes apart early yesterday morning, ended a four-year lull in terror attacks in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

The blasts at the high-rise hotels, located side-by-side in an upscale business district in Jakarta, blew out windows and scattered debris and glass across the street, kicking up a thick plume of smoke.

The attackers evaded hotel security, smuggling explosives into the Marriott and assembling the bombs on the 18th floor, where an undetonated device was found after the explosions. The bombers had stayed at the hotel for two days and set off the blasts in restaurants at both hotels.

Security video footage captured the moment of the explosion in the Marriott. The brief, grainy images show a man wearing a cap and pulling a bag on wheels walking across the lobby toward the restaurant, followed by a flash and smoke filling the air.

The attack occurred as the Marriott was hosting a regular meeting of top foreign executives at major companies in Indonesia organized by the consultancy firm CastleAsia, said the group, which is headed by an American.

Hundreds of postings on a Web site used by Indonesian jihadists praised the attacks. "Mission accomplished," read one posting on the password-protected site,

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the attack was carried out by a "terrorist group" and vowed to arrest the perpetrators. He also suggested a possible link last week's national presidential election.

The Manchester United football team canceled a visit to Indonesia in the wake of the attacks. The team had been scheduled to stay at the Ritz- Carlton today and tomorrow.

Security is tight at five-star hotels in Indonesia. Guests typically walk through metal detectors and vehicles are inspected, but many visitors say searches are often cursory.

The Marriott was hit first, followed by the blast at the Ritz-Carlton.

It has been nearly four years since a major terrorist attack in Indonesia - a triple suicide bombing at restaurants at the resort island of Bali that killed 20 people.

In October 2002 two Bali nightclubs were attacked killing 202 people, many of them foreign tourists. Jemaah Islamiyah was accused of responsibility.


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