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Asian leaders weigh responses to attack

By Grant Holloway, CNN Sydney

Howard: A day when evil struck with indiscriminate and indescribable savagery
Howard: A day when evil struck with indiscriminate and indescribable savagery

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SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Asian leaders are weighing their responses to the Bali bomb attacks at the weekend which have so far claimed more than 180 lives.

While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, investigators suspect that Islamic extremists linked to Jemaah Islamiah, a radical Islamic group with suspected ties to al Qaeda, might be behind the attacks. JI denied involvement.

Hardest hit by the bombings appears to be Australia, with latest reports saying 20 people are now confirmed dead and another 160 citizens still unaccounted for.

Australian officials however deny that their citizens had been targeted by terrorists because of the nation's outspoken support for the U.S.-led war against terrorism.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said that backing would continue.

"The Australian people are very tough, they're very resilient. They will be angry, they will be determined and they will want every effort taken by their government in cooperation with the Indonesian government to find the people who did this and bring them to justice," Howard said Monday.

Other Asian leaders condemned the attack and weighed its consequences for their countries.

  • Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo convened the national security council Monday to evaluate her country's anti-terrorism mechanisms.
  • Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra called the attacks the most serious recent terrorist attacks against innocent people.
  • Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said the blasts were a reminder that terrorism and extremism remain a global threat.
  • In Malaysia, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warned that Southeast Asia should not be judged solely as a terrorist haven because of the incident.
  • Australia said it would take "measured, sober and effective" action, in league with Indonesia, to catch those responsible.

    In a special address to national parliament in Canberra Monday, Howard said two senior ministers were travelling to Bali, and then on to the Indonesian capital Jakarta, to work with authorities there in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

    This would occur "against the backdrop of the memorandum of understanding on terrorism" between Australia and Indonesia signed more than six months ago, Howard said.

    Howard moved a special motion to express outrage over the attack and to offer condolences for the families and friends of the victims.

    'Vile crime'

    "The 12th of October 2002 will for the rest of Australian history be counted as a day when evil struck with indiscriminate and indescribable savagery," Howard said.(Hundreds missing, death toll climbs)

    Australia would be offering all available assistance to Indonesia over the Bali attacks, Howard said, noting the enormous impact the attacks would have on the Indonesian people and its economy.

    "This wicked, evil act of terrorism has not only taken the lives of Australians, but also many of the innocent people of Bali," Howard said.

    "Those who did this are no friends of Indonesia," he said.

    Howard said nothing could excuse the attacks which he described as the "unprovoked slaughter of innocent people".

    Security review

    Following a meeting Monday morning of the National Security Committee, Howard said the government would be reviewing Australia's domestic security legislation and the capacity of the nation's counter-terrorism units.

    Security legislation was strengthened earlier this year as a response to the September 11 attacks, and two new anti-terrorism units were also formed recently.

    Howard said Australia had been concerned "for some time" about extremist groups in Indonesia, a concern which was shared by the United States.

    This concern had been "regularly conveyed to authorities in Indonesia", Howard said.

    Howard earlier urged Indonesia to allow other nations to help them deal with terrorism in the archipelago.

    Sensitivities

    He told radio listeners he respected Indonesian sovereignty and understood the sensitivities involved but said there needed to be a "willingness" for Indonesian authorities to sit down and discuss ways to deal with the terror problem.

    The prime minister stressed that the war against terror must continue in an "uncompromising fashion", adding that to retreat from it would not purchase immunity from attacks.

    He also emphasised that the war on terror was not a war on Islam.

    Speaking in response to Howard's resolution, opposition Labor party leader Simon Crean called for Australia to host a regional summit on terrorism to help address the issue and spur greater international co-operation in the fight.

    Howard also proposed a national day of mourning on Sunday for those killed and injured in the blasts, and suggested a national memorial service would also be held at a later time.

    "I am saddened beyond words of proper description by what has happened," Howard said.

    -- Correspondent John Vause contributed to this report



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