Report: Malaysian fugitive suspected in hotel bombs

A body is removed following the blasts at the Ritz-Carlton and the nearby J.W. Marriott hotels in Jakarta on Friday.
The conventional but sophisticated modus operandi used in twin hotel bombings prompted Indonesian officials to suspect one of the nation’s most-wanted men, official media reported Saturday.

Anti-terrorism officials linked Malaysian-born fugitive Noordin M. Top to the Friday bombings of the luxury JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels that killed eight people — including two suicide bombers — and wounded more than 50 others, reported the state-run Antara news agency. “Although the modus operandi was conventional, it was carried out in a more sophisticated way, namely by infiltrating into the target area,” said Ansyaad Mbai, head of the anti-terror desk at the political, legal and security affairs coordinating ministry, according to Antara. “Previously, suicide bombings were conducted outside in a hotel’s front yard, for instance,” Mbai said. “But this time, the perpetrators dodged a tight security system and came very close to their target.” Mbai said that Friday’s bombings indicate that Top — the suspected leader of a small Jemaah Islamiyah splinter group — remains a viable force despite efforts by Indonesia to curb terrorist activities. Top is reportedly an officer, recruiter, bombmaker, and trainer for the JI group that was involved in a previous attack on the Marriott — in August 2003 — as well as attacks on a Bali nightclub in 2003 and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in 2004, according to the FBI. See images of the aftermath » In the latest Jakarta hotel attacks, suspicion fell on JI, which has ties to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network. Indonesian police were investigating the explosions and were expected to reveal more information later Saturday. Four of the six victims were foreigners, according to the Health Ministry. The ministry identified two of the dead as Australian, one from New Zealand and one from Singapore. Another victim was Indonesian and the sixth remained unidentified. Watch footage of the scene of the blasts » Among the wounded were eight U.S. nationals, according to the U.S. State Department. Investigators are also analyzing closed-circuit television footage from the Marriott that shows a man, sporting a baseball cap and pulling a wheeled suitcase, heading toward the Marriott hotel’s lobby-level restaurant seconds before the deadly blast. Watch analysts discuss potential suspects » Five victims and one suicide bomber were killed at the Marriott, according to police spokesman Inspector General Nanan Soekarna. Minutes later, another suicide bomber struck the Ritz-Carlton, killing one person and the bomber. Indonesian national police confirmed that the man seen in a video distributed by Indonesian television is being investigated in connection with the blast.

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“We are suspecting the man in the footage because the time frame matches with the time of the bombing,” Soekarma said. “It is obviously premature to confirm it right now as we will have to wait for the lab results and the investigation to conclude.” Indonesian authorities have detained several witnesses and others for questioning, and have sent forensic evidence from the scene for testing, a spokesman for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said. “It’s all being studied now,” Dino Patti Djalal told CNN. The bombings at the two luxury hotels — which are connected by an underground tunnel — happened shortly before 8 a.m. (9 p.m. Thursday ET). Both blasts struck the hotels’ restaurants and several prominent international business leaders were among the casualties. The hotels are frequented by international visitors and many foreign nationals. An unexploded bomb was found on the Marriott Hotel’s 18th floor where several suspects believed to be linked to the bombings were staying, Hendarso said. Indonesian investigators believe the bombers checked into the Marriott on Wednesday and were scheduled to check out on Friday, he added. It is unclear how they got around the “robust security” at the hotels, according to Alan Orlob, security chief for Marriott Hotels. Ritz-Carlton is a subsidiary of Marriott. Orlob said there had been no indication of any “immediate threat in Jakarta.” Watch Orlob describe security measures »

Emergency numbersMarriott/Ritz-Carlton Family Assistance Hotline +1 8662114610 +14023903265

Security has been extremely high at the Marriott hotel since the car bombing in 2003. Hendarso said the type of explosives found were similar to those found in a recent raid on a home in West Java that was linked to Top. So far, there has been no claim of responsibility for the latest attack. Al Jazeera English reported that it was in touch with a JI member who denied any involvement in Friday’s hotel bombings.

The fatalities include New Zealand national Timothy David McKay, 60, according to Antara. McKay — the CEO of Holcim Indonesia, a cement company — was at the hotel for a breakfast meeting with fellow prominent business leaders, the Jakarta Post reported. Indonesian media also reported that two directors of PT Freeport Indonesia, the largest copper and gold mining company in Indonesia, were wounded in the attacks on the two hotels.