Fri, 29 Dec 2000

Government undeterred by attacks

JAKARTA (JP): The death toll in the wave of Christmas eve bomb attacks rose to 16 on Thursday as the government said it was unruffled by the terrorist attacks.

"We are ready to face terrorist attacks... we should not be intimidated by anything because they are aimed at destabilizing the government," President Abdurrahman Wahid was quoted by his spokesman Wimar Witoelar.

Wimar said Abdurrahman, who has called the bomb attacks "barbaric" and "politically motivated", admitted the current challenges "really stabbed" his government.

Martinus, 16, became the latest casualty of the attack as he died at around 1 a.m. while undergoing intensive medical care at the St. Vincentius A Paulo hospital in the East Java capital of Surabaya. The boy suffered from severe wounds in the blast that rocked the Santo Yosef Catholic Church in the neighboring town of Mojokerto.

The body of Martinus was buried in Mojokerto later in the day.

Umar Kasan, who headed the medical team for Martinus, said the teenager's injuries were too serious for him to survive.

"His condition was quite critical because of severe wounds and resulting complications. Besides, he lost too much blood," Umar was quoted by Antara.

The doctor said Martinus suffered burns to his chest, head and other parts of his body.

Martinus had undergone surgery to remove shrapnel from his body and was scheduled to have a second operation before he died, Umar said.

A member of Nahdlatul Ulama civilian militia (Banser), Riyanto, was killed hours after the blast that damaged the Catholic church.

Meanwhile the six remaining people injured in a series of blasts in Mojokerto are still under intensive medical care.

Altogether 118 people were wounded in bomb blasts that exploded in or outside churches in 14 cities across the country. The attacks were condemned by both Christian and Muslim leaders.

Wimar said Abdurrahman was being kept up to date every six to 12 hours with "field reports" of the investigation from National Police chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro.

"Many names have come to the surface," Wimar added, declining to elaborate.

"There are (no names) that can be quoted at the moment... first because I have no knowledge of them. Secondly, the police chief has to pick the right time to announce the names because he has to double-check them first."

Based partly on the almost-simultaneous timing of the blasts, Abdurrahman has said he believed the bombers were well- coordinated, well-funded and used to working together.

Defense minister M. Mahfud MD concurred. Speaking to the press during a post-fasting get-together at his private residence in Yogyakarta, Mahfud said a group belonging to the New Order regime under former president Soeharto had masterminded the bombings.

"Judging from the modus operandi and the well-coordinated way the attacks were conducted, I believe there are powerful people from the New Order behind the bombings," Mahfud said.

He said the group has great opportunities to organize whatever activity they wished now due to huge funds and experience in running an effective government.

Mahfud said the people masterminded the bomb attacks to evade the prosecution which Soeharto is facing for his alleged graft during 32 years in power.

Asked if Abdurrahman had any comment on a United States State Department warning advising against travel to Indonesia following the bombings, Wimar said the move was "standard procedure for a foreign embassy."

The State Department advisory warned that the U.S. embassy in Jakarta had indications the bombings "may continue and that U.S. interests may be targeted."

It urged Americans to avoid "nonessential" travel to Indonesia and recommended the cancellation of all trips to the provinces of Aceh, Maluku, Irian Jaya or East Nusa Tenggara.

No one has claimed responsibility for Sunday's deadly explosions, but police have questioned dozens of people, and said on Monday they had arrested two suspects in the West Java capital of Bandung.

The suspects, identified only as Roni, 20, and Agus, 22, were among six civilians injured in a blast that exploded in a shop which police believe to have been used to store and assemble bombs. The police also found leaflets about the terror campaign.

The shop owner, Aceng Suhari, remains at large.

Following the bomb attacks, a group of religious leaders agreed on Tuesday to form a joint crisis center to deal with inter-religious problems.

"The first center will be established in Jakarta," chairman of the Indonesian Council of Churches (PGI) Nathan Setiabudi said in an interview with Radio Elshinta.

The sudden meeting, held at the Borobudur Hotel in Central Jakarta, was attended by representatives of all religions and faiths in Indonesia, including Syafii Maarif, chairman of the Muhammadiyah Muslim organization and Andi Jamarop, deputy chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama Muslim organization.

After the meeting, the religious leaders met with President Abdurrahman Wahid at the State Palace.

"The President welcomed the plan," said Nathan, without elaborating.

The Borobudur meeting itself focused on the Sunday bombing of churches and efforts to prevent the incidents from developing into something worse, Nathan said. (23/nur/byg)