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Death toll hits 26 in Bali blasts; president blames suicide bombers

BALI, Indonesia—Duke Ly, a 47-year-old mechanic for the U.S. Postal Service, and his American family were awaiting their meals at a seafront restaurant in Bali when a huge explosion shattered their Saturday evening.

Parts of the roof of Nyoman's Cafe fell on their heads. Frightened diners dashed outside, bleeding from shrapnel wounds. Pandemonium deepened with a second blast.

Ly, who lives in San Francisco with his Indonesian-born wife and two sons, now plots how he can usher his wounded brood back to safety in northern California. "I wish we could go home," Ly said from his ward at the Sanglah Hospital. "I'm scared."

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono toured the shattered sites of the terrorist bombings in Bali—a beachfront row of restaurants in posh Jimbaran Bay and a bustling arcade in Kuta—and later declared that suicide bombers were probably behind the three almost simultaneous blasts just after dusk Saturday.

"So far our investigation could say that these attacks were done by suicide bombers both in Jimbaran and Kuta Square," Yudhoyono said at a news briefing.

The attackers, he said, "did not use a vehicle, rather their own bodies. We have some evidence as in parts of bodies at the location."

Officials at Sanglah Hospital raised the death toll to 26 people, including 14 Indonesians, a Japanese woman and an Australian teenager. Ten bodies have not been identified. Another 101 people were wounded, including 17 Australians, six Americans, six South Koreans, four Japanese and a smattering of other nationalities.

The explosions sent this tropical haven into shock. Frightened tourists scrambled to flee the island, crowding the international airport. Business owners fretted that Bali's renown as a sanctuary of serenity may be seriously marred after the second terrorist attack in three years.

Jakarta, capital of the world's most populous Muslim nation, was put on top alert with some 18,000 security forces deployed against further bombings.

While two other American citizens are still unaccounted for, the Ly family members are the only U.S. citizens formally identified as victims of the blasts. Ly, a soft-spoken American of Vietnamese origin, still wore bloody trousers from the previous evening's attack as he spoke to a reporter outside his crowded second-floor ward at Bali's biggest public hospital.

The extended clan—including Ly, his wife, Sofiana, his 16-year-old son Sean, his 4-year-old son Jeremy, his father-in-law, a brother-in-law and an uncle—had just ordered their food from the beachfront cafe when explosions ripped through the area.

Sean, a junior at San Francisco's Galileo High School, broke down in tears when he recounted to Jakarta's Metro TV the initial instants following the blasts.

"When I went out of the restaurant, I was screaming to see if my mom and dad were OK," Sean said. "I'm really so upset that I got my leg injured. ... It's really painful. I just don't want this to happen again."

Ly, who works at a postal facility in San Mateo, Calif., said he'd brought his family to Bali to satisfy a request by his wife.

"My wife is Indonesian. She said, `We've never been there, so let's go,'" Ly said. The family had planned to return to Jakarta Monday, but now must await treatment of their most serious shrapnel wounds.

Foreigners residing in Bali said they feared the island's tourism-based economy would take another plunge. After terrorist blasts three years ago, which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, tourist bookings to Bali fell to 40 percent of previous levels. It took more than a year to recover—only to be hit with terrorism again.

"It's going to kill Bali," said Jaclyn Garcia, a 26-year-old mother from near Melbourne, Australia, who has lived on the island for a year. "People will be too scared to come back."

Qantas Airways added an extra flight Sunday night to handle the crowds of Australian vacationers wanting to return home early.

Indonesian officials scurried to portray the attacks as part of a global terrorism campaign by Islamic extremists, rather than a festering localized problem.

"It happens not only in Bali but all over the world. We have to join hands to fight this," Alwi Shihab, the coordinating minister for people's welfare, said as he visited patients at the Denpasar hospital.

While no one has claimed responsibility, officials blame the bombings on Jemaah Islamiyah, a radical group linked to al-Qaida that seeks to form a Muslim state out of Malaysia, Indonesia and parts of the Philippines. The group is blamed for more than 50 bombings since the late 1990s.

In repeated attacks on Bali, the group hits at an island that is largely Hindu, not Muslim, and is particularly friendly to foreigners, especially from nearby Australia.

"There are 15,000 Australians living in Bali," said Lloyd Rosenow, a 54-year-old Australian owner of a bar in Kuta. "And there's probably that amount again from other countries."

Rosenow said some foreigners with heavy investments in Bali believe the island should become independent of Indonesia, just as nearby East Timor broke away.


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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