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Bombers 'not happy' Americans spared

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 9, 2002

BALI, Indonesia -- A suspect in the terrorist attack on a disco here told interrogators that the group that carried out the blast had intended to target Americans, and regretted that so many Australians were killed instead, the head of the investigation said Friday.

The New York Times, citing a senior Western diplomat, reported that the investigation of the bombing, which killed nearly 200 people, many of them Australian, was pointing toward the operational leader for al-Qaida in Southeast Asia as the mastermind of the blast.

The man, Riduan Isamudin, an Indonesian fugitive also known as Hambali, has been tied to the Sept. 11 hijackers.

Australian and Indonesian police officials investigating the bombing reported good progress during two days interrogating the Indonesian suspect. The man, identified as Amrozi, was arrested midweek and was linked to a radical Islamic group.

Officials said they expected to make further arrests soon in Indonesia and elsewhere in connection with the blast that ripped apart a crowded bar and dance floor filled with tourists on Oct. 12. At least 59 Australians -- and possibly more than 80 -- were killed. Four Americans have been confirmed dead.

According to the account of Gen. I Made Mangku Pastika, the chief Indonesian investigator, Amrozi told interrogators: "They wanted to kill as many Americans as possible. They hate Americans. They tried to find where the Americans are gathering."

The group believed that Bali was a haunt of Americans, and afterward its members were "not happy because Australians were killed in big numbers," Pastika said. The attackers sought revenge for "what Americans have done to Muslims," Pastika said.

If what Amrozi said is true, the toll showed the attackers' ignorance of Western travel patterns. Bali has been a traditional resort for Australian surfers and backpackers for the last two decades because of its proximity to Australia, but has been far less popular with Americans, mainly because of distance.

The head of the Australian Federal Police, Mick Keelty, said here Friday that the questioning of Amrozi should lead to further arrests. "We want to maximize the opportunity to make arrests" of other suspects "anywhere in the world," Keelty said.

Amrozi, who is in custody here, has told interrogators that he knows the two leaders of Jemaah Islamiyah, an extremist Islamic organization that the United States believes was behind the Bali attack. One of the leaders, Abu Bakar Bashir, a cleric, is in custody in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta; the other is Hambali.

The arrest of Amrozi was based on his ownership of the van that was packed with the bomb that blew up the club.

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