- The Washington Times - Friday, September 10, 2004

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Police released a grainy photo yesterday of a white delivery truck taken by a security camera just before the vehicle blew up outside the Australian Embassy and said they suspect two suicide bombers in the truck set off the explosion, killing seven others.

As details emerged in the attack, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said at a Jakarta press conference that Indonesian police had received a mobile-phone text message 45 minutes before the bombing, warning that foreign missions in Jakarta would be attacked unless the suspected head of al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah was freed from prison.

Australian officials said the threat was not passed on to Australian Federal Police until hours after Thursday’s bombing. But Indonesian police said they had received no such warning.

“That’s not true. Where did Downer get that from?” said Indonesian police spokesman Maj. Gen. Paiman, who goes by a single name.

In Australia, Prime Minister John Howard said another attack in Jakarta was a “distinct possibility.” Militants have repeatedly struck foreign targets in Indonesia, the deadliest in 2002 when they bombed nightclubs on Bali, killing 202 persons, including many Australians.

The accused head of Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Bakar Bashir, is in jail as prosecutors draw up a revised indictment accusing him of urging his followers to launch attacks. In 2002, an Indonesian court cleared Bashir of terror charges, but sentenced him to 18 months in jail for minor immigration violations. He was arrested again in April after serving his sentence.

A claim of responsibility in Jemaah Islamiyah’s name was posted Thursday on an Internet site known for carrying extreme Islamist content.

“We decided to call Australia to account, which we consider one of the worst enemies of God, and God’s religion of Islam,” the statement said.

Jemaah Islamiyah has also been blamed for the bombings at Bali and against the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta a year ago, which killed 12 persons.

The embassy attack, which also injured more than 170 people, struck a key U.S. ally in the war in Iraq. It came just ahead of today’s September 11 anniversary, shortly before Indonesia’s Sept. 20 presidential vote, and ahead of Australian parliamentary elections on Oct. 9 in which Mr. Howard is running in a tight race on a pro-American, anti-terror platform.

Police said the delivery truck was packed with 440 pounds of potassium chloride. Authorities said they recovered a vehicle chassis and other parts.

Indonesian police chief Dai Bachtiar said authorities were searching for two key suspected members of Jemaah Islamiyah — Malaysian bomb makers Azahari bin Husin and Noordin Top. Police discovered an empty house near the airport rented last month by the suspects.

Lt. Gen. Suyitno Landung, the national police’s chief of detectives, said information about the suicide bombers came from interrogations of six men arrested in June. Police also recovered letters in which a suicide bomber asked his family for permission to take part in an attack.

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