Indonesian Defense Minister Matori Abdul Djalil told the press, ”We are sure al-Qaida is here.’
“The Bali bomb blast is linked to al-Qaida with the cooperation of local terrorists.”
The attack began with a small bomb outside a crowded discotheque in the Kuta Beach nightclub district. Soon after, a huge car bomb ripped through an open-air bar, igniting gas cylinders used for cooking and sending balls of fire through several packed tourist spots.
Many of the victims were from Australia, but there were also tourists from Britain, Singapore, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Ecuador and elsewhere in Indonesia. Two Americans were killed in the attack, according to the U.S. State Department. The British government said at least 30 Britons had also died.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack — the worst in Indonesian history — but officials are investigating a group allegedly affiliated with al-Qaida called Jemaah Islamiyah, which is fighting for a pan-Islamic state that stretches across Malaysia, Indonesia and the southern Philippines.
Speaking on a Sunday morning news program, Sen. Richard C. Shelby, senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said briefings by the FBI and CIA suggest that “there is a definite terrorist link here.”
“I believe that this is the beginning of a lot more that we’re going to see,” he added.
Abu Bakar Bashir, the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, denied that his group was involved, and suggested that the United States may have instigated the attack to give Indonesia an excuse to crack down on Islamic fundamentalists.
“I suspect that the bombing was engineered by the United States and its allies to justify allegations that Indonesia is a base for terrorists,” Bashir told the Associated Press in telephone interview from Solo, a city in central Java, where he runs an Islamic boarding school.
The attack comes after several smaller incidents and warnings from the U.S. State Department. In Jakarta, the British and American ambassadors ordered all nonessential staff and dependents to leave the country.
In Washington, President Bush expressed his sorrow to the families of the victims and called the attack “a cowardly act designed to create terror and chaos.”
Australian Prime Minister John Howard said it was “an act of barbarity,” and called on Indonesia to act.
“We would like to see a maximum effort on the part of the Indonesian government to deal with the terrorist problem within their own borders,” he said, “It’s been a problem for a long time.”
Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who toured the devastated area Sunday, promised to work with other nations to find the individuals responsible for the carnage. The FBI has joined Indonesian and Australian law enforcement officials on the island to help with the investigation.
The attack dealt a huge blow to Indonesia’s tourism industry, one of its top sources of income. On Sunday, thousands of visitors traveled directly to the airport to try to get home and many tourists camped out on the beach to avoid built-up areas in town.
Tourism brings in about $5 billion each year, and more than 5 million foreigners visited Indonesia in 2001. Bali, a peaceful beach getaway populated primarily by Hindus, hosted 1.5 million of those visitors.
On Monday, Indonesian stocks tumbled more than 9 percent Monday amid worries that the tourism industry may not be able to recover for some time.