U.S. offers rewards and joins in search for Bali bombing suspects as one narrowly 'avoids' capture
UK educated engineer considered to be Jemaah Islamiya's 'top bomb maker'
By Tomi Soetjipto KUTA BEACH, Indonesia, Oct 8 (Reuters) -
Police questioned more witnesses in the Bali backpack bombings on Saturday after narrowly failing to capture a key suspect in a series of blasts in Indonesia over the past several years. The death toll from the blasts one week ago has risen to 23 -- including the three suicide bombers who strolled into packed restaurants on Indonesia's resort island with explosives hidden in backpacks, police said. A 20-year-old restaurant worker died late on Friday of internal bleeding said Wayan Sutarga, medical services director at Sanglah hospital in Denpasar. He was the 15th Indonesian victim of the blasts, which also killed four Australians and a Japanese and wounded 146.
Police have questioned a total of 152 witnesses over the past week in connection with the blasts, but no one has been arrested or charged, Soenarko Dhanu Artanto, National Police deputy spokesman told reporters on Saturday. Police narrowly missed catching Noordin M. Top, 35, during a pre-dawn raid in the central Java village of Purwantoro, Abdul Madjid, police chief in the city of Solo, told Reuters late on Friday. Noordin and fellow Malaysian Azahari bin Husin, identified by police and intelligence officials as leaders of the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militant network, are leading targets of the search for those with possible ties to the Bali blasts. JI seeks to create an Islamic state across broad swathes of Muslim Southeast Asia, experts say. LEAFLETS DROPPED ON MARKETS Madjid said police had information Noordin visited Bali near the time of the bombings, but it wasn't clear whether he was there when the blasts occurred.
A U.S. trained anti-terror force called Detachment 88 took part in the raids, he said. Police helicopters on Saturday dropped thousands of leaflets with pictures of Top and Noordin on traditional markets throughout central Java. The leaflets said: "These are dangerous terrorists! If you see them, please report to the nearest police. The two Malaysians were implicated in bombings in Bali three years ago that killed 202 people, and subsequent deadly attacks on a luxury hotel in Jakarta in 2003 and outside the Australian embassy in the Indonesian capital in 2004. The United States announced this week it was offering rewards of $10 million and $1 million respectively for information leading to the capture of Dulmatin and Umar Patek, two suspects in the 2002 Bali bombings. The State Department said both were JI members and Dulmatin was an electronics specialist who had trained at al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.
BALI MOVING ON
Some police and experts say JI in its original form was largely destroyed by arrests and convictions after earlier attacks, and the group behind the latest attacks may be a new Islamic militant organisation or a violent offshoot of JI. Most Muslims in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, are moderate but militancy has grown in recent years. As the police search went on across the country, in Bali ordinary people were trying to move on with their lives. "Our driver died in the first blast. Luckily everyone is safe now," said Felix Harahap, operator of an ice-cream store near the site of one of the bombings, Raja's cafe. "We will not be disturbed. So that's why as soon as the police took off the police line, we started cleaning up and opened the shop," he said. Just opposite Raja's, at a store selling bikinis and women's dresses, shop assistant Made Wijaya, 35, told Reuters: "I think we just have to face the situation. Hopefully there will be no (more) Bali bombings ... But for me it's important to open the shop very soon so we can have costumers again." (Additional reporting by Telly Nathalia in Jakarta)