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IN THE NEWS - October 19, 2002: Bali Bombing - 2002-10-18

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

Indonesian officials are investigating the bomb attacks in Bali. A powerful car bomb exploded last Saturday in Kuta, an area popular among foreign travelers. The explosion and resulting fire destroyed two businesses where people were eating, drinking and dancing. Nearby buildings were severely damaged.

The bombing killed more than one-hundred-eighty people. More than three-hundred others were injured. Most of the victims were from Australia. However, Indonesians and citizens of other countries also were killed or injured. Indonesian officials are having trouble identifying the remains of those killed. Most of the bodies were so damaged that they are not recognizable.

Australia has offered to help Indonesia investigate the Bali bombings. The United States and other countries have sent small teams to help in the effort.

Indonesian police say they found evidence that complex plastic explosives were used in the attack. Similar explosives were used in the bombing of an American Navy ship in Yemen two years ago. United States officials blame al-Qaida terrorists for that attack.

Singapore and Malaysia have described a group called Jemaah Islamiah as the Southeast Asian part of al-Qaida. The United States and other nations also say Jemaah Islamiah is linked to the terror group.

Indonesia has resisted these claims. Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Thursday that officials are not sure who carried out the Bali bombing. He said it may have been the work of foreigners, possibly with the help of Indonesians.

The minister denied that Jemaah Islamiah exists as an organization in his country. Yet he added that three of the group’s leaders are from Indonesia. He said one of them, Abu Bakar Bashir, could face legal action. Mister Bashir is the head of an Islamic school in central Java.

On Saturday, police arrested the Muslim clergyman. Officials say they want to question him about bombings that killed nineteen people two years ago. The arrest order was not directly connected to the Bali bombing.

Experts say Jemaah Islamiah began many years ago as a group for religious Muslims. They say it started to support extreme causes during a campaign led by the government of then-President Suharto. Mister Bashir and his followers fled to Malaysia in the nineteen-eighties. After Mister Suharto left office in nineteen-ninety-eight, the clergyman returned to Indonesia and continued his teachings. He supports creation of an Islamic government in Southeast Asia.

Mister Bashir denies that Jemaah Islamiah exists. He says that any link between the Bali bombing and al-Qaeda is an invention of non-Muslims. He says the Indonesian government is surrendering too much to American influence. He warned that such a relationship between the two countries could lead to another attack in Indonesia.

This VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS, was written by Caty Weaver. This is Steve Ember.