Mail bomb addressed to moderate Islamic leader goes off in Indonesia, 4 wounded

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By ALI KOTARUMALOS
Associated Press
Tuesday, March 15, 2011; 11:55 AM

JAKARTA, Indonesia - A mail bomb addressed to a moderate Muslim leader exploded in Indonesia's capital Tuesday as police were trying to defuse it, wounding four people.

The explosive, delivered to the offices of the Islamic Liberal Network, was placed in a hole carved into a heavy book titled "They should be killed for their sins against Islam and the Muslims."

Witnesses told TVOne station that it arrived with a note to Ulil Abshar Abdalla, a prominent member of the U.S.-funded group, asking him to name those who should top the "hit list."

He was not in the office when the parcel arrived.

"This is clearly a terror attack," said Anton Bachrul Alam, spokesman for the national police, after video of the officer's bungled attempt to diffuse the bomb aired on local television.

"We are still investigating and don't want to speculate at the moment as to who may have been behind this."

Hours later, MetroTV reported that a second mail bomb was sent to the office of the National Board of Narcotics, which is headed by Lt. Gen. Gories Mere, a Christian and former chief of the police anti-terror squad.

It was diffused without incident.

Indonesia, a secular nation of 237 million people with more Muslims than any other in the world, has been hit by a string of terrorist attacks blamed on the al-Qaida-linked militant group Jemaah Islamiyah since 2002, when suicide bombings on Bali island killed 202 people. Many of the victims were foreign tourists.

A new terrorist cell discovered just over a year ago has shifted tactics, experts say, instead targeting the moderate Muslim leaders like President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his security forces.

The militants accuse Yudhoyono, who launched a crackdown on terrorism that has resulted in hundreds of arrests and convictions, of being an infidel and lackey of the West.

Abdalla, who joined Yudhoyono's Democratic Party a year ago, has been a hated figure among hard-liners in Indonesia for a decade.

Through radio shows, the Internet, discussion groups and publications, he and his network have worked hard to undercut extremism.

In an interview with MetroTV, however, Abdalla said he believed the attack was motivated by politics, not religion.

"I've been with the Islamic Liberal Network for 10 years and nothing like this has ever happened," said Abdalla, the son of a respected local Muslim cleric. "It's only just now."

A worker at a nearby radio station captured Friday's blast on video.

He had his hand-held camera rolling when police arrived, hosing down the makeshift device while they waited for the bomb squad to arrive. They then tried to remove cables from the detonator on their own.

Four people were wounded in the explosion, including two of the officers, said Alam, the police spokesman.

Most Muslims in Indonesia practice a moderate form of the faith, but a small, extremist fringe has grown more vocal and violent in recent years, as they seek to carve out an Islamic state.

They have targeted Christians, members of Islamic sects and others whom they consider blasphemous with little push-back from the government.

___

Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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