Bali, Oct. 14 (Reuters): Indonesia has linked the al Qaida network to the Bali bomb explosions that killed 181 people, conceding for the first time that the group was operating in the country.
In a sign that an investigation into the blasts was making progress, police said they had names of individuals connected to the attacks.
Defence minister Matori Abdul Djalil told reporters that the blasts were the work of professionals. That is why, he said, “I am not afraid to say, though many have refused to say, that an al Qaida network exists in Indonesia”.
“I am convinced that there is a domestic link with al Qaida,” he said. Djalil’s comments appear designed to head off criticism from Indonesia’s neighbours that it is not doing enough to combat terrorism.
Frustrated that months of warnings fell on deaf ears, the neighbours have piled pressure on Jakarta to finally clamp down on militants suspected of being behind the attacks on a nightclub on Bali’s Kuta beach packed with foreign tourists.
US President George W. Bush said in Washington that it must be assumed that al Qaida was responsible for the explosions. The US has ordered all non-essential diplomats and all family members to leave Indonesia.
The worst act of terror since September 11, 2001, has fanned fears that Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida was regrouping. A fax carrying the purported signature of bin Laden today warned the US of more carnage to come ( ).
Diplomats were watching for any moves in Indonesia against the Jemaah Islamiah group. Southeast Asian nations have rounded up scores of its members and have warned that others have gone to ground in Indonesia.
They identify one key leader as militant cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who has consistently denied links to Jemaah Islamiah or terrorism. Bashir said he had heard reports that he might be arrested.
Bali police spokesman Yatim Suyatmo said investigators “have names that would lead in some directions to solve this case. There are names which are linked (to the explosions) who could give information”.
The Jakarta stock market dived more than 10 per cent and the rupiah slumped, partly on fears that foreign investors will flee the world’s fourth most populous nation.