Jakarta - Two notorious Malaysian fugitives who are also Jemaah Islamiah (JI) leaders have emerged as key suspects in the Oct 1 suicide bombings in Bali, the second terrorist attack on the Indonesian resort island in three years. Terrorism experts believe that Azahari Husin, an ex-university lecturer and JI's top bomb-maker, and his accomplice, Noordin Mohamed Top, may have had a role in the bombings to let their affiliates know that they are still active, and to win new recruits.
If the 2002 bombings - in which the two Malaysians were also alleged to be the masterminds - involved the use of powerful car bombs, the carnage this time round was caused by three suicide bombers who walked into restaurants in the Kuta and Jimbaran resort areas at a peak weekend dinner hour, police said.
Wearing backpacks, they detonated their explosives amid crowds of revellers, killing more than 20 people, including tourists, and injuring more than 100 others.
A presidential spokesman said the police had found "six legs and three heads but no middle bodies, and that's the strong sign of suicide bombers".
Bali police chief I Made Mangku Pastika said on Oct 2: "I am certain there are others involved in this bombing. There are those who planned it, there were those making the arrangements, those preparing the bombs, and those are ones we must search for."
While no group has claimed responsibility for the bombings, security experts said the strikes bore the hallmark of the Jemaah Islamiah, the regional arm of the Al-Qaeda terror network.
"There is still no other group, other than the JI, with the intention and capability to mount an attack of this nature," Singapore-based terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna, told Singapore's The Sunday Times.
"JI has access to about 800 weapons of varied nature that it has acquired from the confict zones of Poso and Ambon and from other sources, and can easily put together a bomb, the ingredients for which are available in the country," Dr Gunaratna added.
It is not clear at this stage if the two key suspects, Azahari, and Noordin, were acting under the aegis of the JI or on their own.
Azahari, a former lecturer at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and described as a gifted mathematician, is believed to be the man who designed the bombs which rocked Bali in 2002; destroyed the JW Marriott Hotel in 2003; and damaged the Australian Embassy in2004. Not much is known about his deputy, Noordin, who is reported to be an accountant by profession.
With both men still on the loose, the Indonesian authorities have put security on high alert throughout Jakarta, the capital, with some 18,000 police officers being deployed to guard strategic places, including embassies in Jakarta.
* Suicide bombers behind Bali blasts (The Straits Times, Oct 3)
* All signs point to JI's hand in the blast (The Sunday Times, Oct 2)