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At least 183 dead in Bali bombings

Attacks called worst acts of terrorism in Indonesia's history

An Indonesian police officer stands guard at site of blast on Sunday.
An Indonesian police officer stands guard at site of blast on Sunday.

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KUTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Indonesian government officials Sunday called attacks that killed at least 183 people in two Bali nightclubs the work of terrorists, while U.S. and regional intelligence officials linked the bombings to the al Qaeda terror network.

The blasts were "the worst act of terrorism in the country's history," according to Indonesian police Chief Da'e Bakhtiar.

More than 100 also were wounded in the Saturday night attacks on the Indonesian tourist island. Identification of the dead was difficult because of serious burn injuries.

Many of the dead and wounded were Australians, but Indonesian, German, French, British and Americans also were among the casualties. One American and five Britons were among the confirmed dead.

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri arrived Sunday in Bali, visiting the injured before heading to the blast scene. She returned to Jakarta on Sunday night, where she was expected to convene an emergency Cabinet session.

President Bush offered U.S. assistance to the Indonesian government and said the bombings were designed to "create terror and chaos."

"On behalf of the people of the United States, I condemn this heinous act," Bush said in a statement. "I offer our heartfelt condolences to the families of all the murder victims from numerous countries and our wish for the swift and complete recovery of those injured in this attack."

According to witnesses, an explosion occurred at one nightclub. As people streamed out, another, larger blast tore through the Sari Club, which caters to international visitors. (Bali's nightmare)

"There was just a procession of people covered in blood, covered in glass, glass embedded in people, people's backs which have obviously been on fire," said witness Richard Poore. "It was just horrible."

An official with the American Chamber of Commerce said the explosion rattled windows at least 6 miles (10 kilometers) away.

The blasts and subsequent fire destroyed an entire city block, said Robert Koster, a journalist on the scene. It appeared the second explosion may have been caused by a car bomb, he said.

Another explosion occurred around the same time near the U.S. consular office on the island. There was no immediate report of casualties.

Region's seventh bombing in three weeks

U.S. and Asian intelligence authorities said they had linked the attacks to the al Qaeda terrorist network in Southeast Asia because they bear the hallmarks of the terrorist group:

  • Coordinated, simultaneous bombings, a tactic outlined in an al Qaeda training manual.
  • Attention to timing: The blasts took place two years after the terrorist attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors and wounded 39 others in the Gulf of Aden.
  • Aiming at an economic target, a recent switch in al Qaeda tactics. Tourism is Indonesia's third-largest source of income.
  • A likely role by Jemaah Islamiah, a radical Islamic group linked to al Qaeda which experts say is the only one in the region with the capability to coordinate such attacks.
  • It is the seventh major bombing in the region in the last three weeks. They include an explosion Saturday outside the Philippine consulate in Manado, Indonesia, a grenade attack outside a U.S. Embassy warehouse in Jakarta and a blast at a bar in the southern Philippines that killed one U.S. Marine and three Filipinos.

    Jemaah Islamiah, which authorities suspect is al Qaeda's network in Southeast Asia, is blamed for the September 23 grenade explosion near the U.S. Embassy warehouse as well as several other bombing attacks in Southeast Asia.

    Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said "preliminary indications" suggested that an Islamic radical group could be behind the blasts.

    "We have been very concerned about terrorist organizations operating in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, organizations such as Jemaah Islamiah, and there are at least preliminary indications that one of those types of organizations is behind this," Downer said.

    Australia is sending an investigative team to work with Indonesian authorities to find out who was behind the attack, Downer said.

    Many Australians among victims

    Police and other rescue workers survey bomb ruins in Kuta.
    Police and other rescue workers survey bomb ruins in Kuta.

    Friends and family of the victims flooded the local hospital in Bali on Sunday, trying to find any information about the status of their loved ones. Hospital officials appealed for volunteers to help care for victims with serious burns.

    Just after midnight Monday in Sydney (10 a.m. EDT Sunday), the first of four Royal Australian Air Force C-130 transports touched down in Darwin, Australia, carrying 27 Australians wounded in the back-to-back blasts.

    At least 113 other Australians were wounded, with 16 listed in serious condition. Medical facilities were overwhelmed in Bali, causing concerns in Australia about the other nation's ability to provide treatment.

    Extra flights were scheduled to ferry Australians and other tourists to Australia. (Full story)

    Many football and rugby players from Australia were in the Bali nightclub at the time of the explosion.

    "At this point in time we have seven unaccounted for," said Brian Andersen of Australia's Kingsley Football Club. "We found one this morning in the hospital with burns, but we can't get any other information regarding the other seven at this stage."

    'Despicable act of terrorism'

    Ralph Boyce, U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, called the attacks "a despicable act of terrorism, the likes of which Indonesia has never seen."

    "No cause or aspiration justifies the taking innocent life," Boyce said in a statement. "The United States has offered all appropriate assistance to the government of Indonesia to see that those responsible for this cowardly act face justice."

    Hospital sources said that one American and five Britons were among the dead.

    The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta is "currently re-evaluating the extent of its presence in Indonesia," said a statement posted on its Web site Sunday. "Americans visiting or residing in Indonesia are advised to examine the necessity of continuing to remain in Indonesia."

    The United States had warned it was considering evacuating nonessential government personnel if Indonesian authorities did not do more to battle terrorism within its borders, U.S. sources in Indonesia and Washington said.

    On Thursday, the U.S. State Department warned posts abroad about the possibility of an attack by Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, alerting all posts to be at the "highest level of vigilance," a senior State Department official said. (Indonesia probes al Qaeda links)

    The State Department has had a travel warning in effect for Indonesia for more than a year, but Bali had been widely considered insulated from the troubles plaguing much of the rest of the archipelago.

    CNN Correspondents Maria Ressa, Atika Shubert, journalist Robert Koster and White House Correspondent Kelly Wallace contributed to this report.



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