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Explosions Rock Indonesian Island of Bali


In Indonesia, bombs exploded on the island of Bali earlier today on a beachfront and at an outdoor shopping center in downtown Kuta. At least 17 people are dead, many more injured. NPR's Michael Sullivan joins us from Jakarta.

Michael, hi.


Hi, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: So what have you learned about what happened?

SULLIVAN: Well, we know that there were at least two and possibly more bombs that went off nearly simultaneously in two different areas miles apart, as you said, around 7:30 this evening local time. Now that's a busy time on a weekend evening in a holiday resort, and the bombs went off outside restaurants. One of them on Jimbaran Beach; there's lots of restaurants there and bars and hotels that cater to foreigners. And the other in Kuta, and that's a more densely packed, more commercial tourist area about 10 miles away. And it's the same place where the 2002 Bali bombings occurred that killed 202 people.

WERTHEIMER: It was October 2002, right? Has any group claimed responsibility for what happened today? Do you have any idea whether it's the same group?

SULLIVAN: No group has claimed responsibility so far, and none of the Indonesian officials will name any specific group. But of course, the group that carried out the Bali bombing in 2002 is Jemaah Islamiah, and even though people aren't saying it, I mean, it's definitely the group that most people here probably put at the top of their list of suspects because Jemaah Islamiah was responsible for the Bali bombings; it was responsible for the JW Marriott bombing in August 2003 here in Jakarta, and JI was also responsible for the bombing of the Australian Embassy here in Jakarta last year.

WERTHEIMER: The government--what has the government been doing to protect people against this possibility? I know that everybody has talked about the possibility of additional terrorist attacks in Indonesia.

SULLIVAN: Yeah, and in fact, the president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, warned just last month that the terrorists were still out there and that they were still planning and plotting and recruiting, and were planning on carrying out another attack. And he said specifically in September or October. But at the same time, the Indonesian police, since the last round of Bali bombings in 2002, have done quite a bit to try to contain JI. They've arrested over 150 JI members. They put them in jail. They put the Bali bombers on trial, and they convicted many of them, and they're been doing quite a lot. But the problem is there are still several senior members of JI still out there, who are still quite dangerous, including the two key bomb makers for the organization who are still at large. And these are the people the Indonesian authorities have been worried about for many months now. These are the guys who can put together a good bomb, and they're very good at recruiting people to carry out their wishes.

WERTHEIMER: Any--what are the Indonesians doing to try to protect people from this possibility?

SULLIVAN: Well, what they're doing is increasing security outside malls, outside restaurants, outside hotels--anyplace where foreigners gather--because most of these attacks have very definitely been targeting foreigners, Westerners in particular. And so they've been trying to beef up security around those areas, but you know, they can't be perfect.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's Michael Sullivan, speaking to us from Jakarta. Michael, thank you.

SULLIVAN: You're quite welcome.

WERTHEIMER: It's 18 minutes past the hour. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer travels the country and the globe for NPR News, bringing her unique insights and wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.
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.