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Bombings Kill 25 as Terror Returns to Bali

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Debbie Elliott.

Three bombs went off today on Bali, the Indonesian island that was the scene of a horrific terrorist attack three years ago. Today, 25 people were killed and more than a hundred wounded. NPR's Michael Sullivan is following this story from the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

Hello, Michael.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN reporting:

Hello, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: Has anyone claimed responsibility?

SULLIVAN: Not yet, and the Indonesia authorities have been very careful so far not to blame anyone in particular, but suspicion will clearly fall on Jemaah Islamiah. That's the al-Qaeda-linked group that was responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings and several other attacks against Western targets since then.

ELLIOTT: After that big attack in 2002, weren't people sent to jail?

SULLIVAN: Absolutely. There was a trial and several of the Bali bombers were convicted and two of them now face the death penalty. And after the Bali bombings, Indonesia really got serious about going after Jemaah Islamiah and several other militant groups operating in Indonesia with help from Australia and the US. Indonesia rounded up more than a hundred and fifty alleged Jemaah Islamiah operatives, and I think today most people, most analysts would tell you that Jemaah Islamiah is much weaker now than it was three years ago as a result of that effort, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have some operatives and some resources to carry out high-profile attacks like the Bali bombing, like the bombing of the JW Marriott in Jakarta in August of 2003, like the bombing on the Australian Embassy here in Jakarta just a year ago. So it depleted, yeah, definitely. But able to carry out at least one or two high-profile attacks a year, absolutely.

ELLIOTT: Michael, didn't I hear you report just a couple of weeks ago that Indonesian authorities were warning of another attack like happened today.

SULLIVAN: Yeah, and just a month ago. I mean, Indonesia's president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, he gave a speech in which he warned that another major attack was imminent. He said that September and October were special months for such attacks, a reference to the October 2002 Bali bombing and the Australian Embassy bombing in September of last year. He said that the terrorists--I'm quoting here--"were actively recruiting and networking and planning," readying themselves for another strike.

ELLIOTT: This has to be a blow for the tourism industry there. We think of it as a beautiful resort island, that Bali would somehow be isolated from this type of thing.

SULLIVAN: And that's what they thought back in 2002, and after the Bali bombings then, I mean, foreign tourists just stopped coming and the people in Bali were just incredibly despondent because tourism was the main source of revenue on the island, and only last year did tourists begin to start coming back and did things start looking like, OK, they could get back to normal again. And now all that time, all that effort out the window. They'll have to start all over again.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Michael Sullivan reporting from Jakarta.

Thank you, Michael.

SULLIVAN: You're welcome, Debbie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.