Group says it bombed Jakarta hotels

Associated Press / July 30, 2009

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JAKARTA, Indonesia - Police were investigating the origin of an Internet message claiming responsibility for twin hotel bombings in Indonesia’s capital nearly two weeks ago. The group calling itself Al Qaeda Indonesia said the attacks targeted the American business community.

The message surfaced yesterday and was purportedly signed by Noordin Mohammed Top, a key terrorist suspect in Southeast Asia. It said the attacks were carried out by a splinter faction of the Al Qaeda-linked regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah. An expert on regional terrorism said the language resembles claims by Muslim extremist groups and may be authentic.

The splinter group has been considered the most likely perpetrator of the hotel attacks. An unexploded bomb recovered from the scene resembled devices used by the group before and documents seized from members indicated they intended to hit prominent Western targets.

Police said they were investigating the message but were not certain it was from Malaysian fugitive Noordin or whether it would provide clues in the hunt for those responsible for the blasts that killed seven and wounded more than 50 at the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels.

The statement, which surfaced the same day the hotels reopened for guests amid tightened security, said the bombings targeted the US business community and “infidels who fight Islam and Muslims.’’

The July 17 attacks in Jakarta’s upscale business district have forced Indonesia to reevaluate its widely praised fight against violent Islamists, which combined a “soft’’ social element of de-radicalization with the systematic arrests of hundreds of suspected militants.

Written in Arabic and Indonesian, the message was posted on a previously unknown website Sunday and vowed to follow up by posting footage of the carnage.

Police spokesman Sulityo Ishak said they are trying to authenticate it as part of their inquiries into the blasts, which broke a four-year lull in terror attacks in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Noordin is accused of planning four previous attacks in Indonesia that killed more than 240 people. His group claimed responsibility for just one of those strikes - triple suicide bombings in Bali in 2005.