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July 29, 2009 3:03 pm
Indonesian police are investigating a statement from a group calling itself al-Qaeda Indonesia, in which it claims responsibility for the July 17 suicide bomb attacks on the Jakarta Ritz-Carlton and Marriott hotels.
The web statement lauds the double bombings, which killed nine people including the two bombers, and ends with a signature purporting to be that of top police suspect Noordin Mohammed Top.
Police have been searching for Mr Top, a Malaysian citizen and former Jemaah Islamiyah commander, in connection with past bombings in Indonesia.
The statement says the bombers targeted the American Chamber of Commerce, although the explosion took place during an unrelated business meeting at the Marriott, where three Australians and a New Zealander were killed.
The statement also condemns the planned visit of Manchester United, the English football team, for an exhibition match in Jakarta on July 20. The football players are non-Muslims and should not be honoured by Indonesia, the statement says.
Manchester United had planned to check into the Ritz-Carlton on July 18, but cancelled their visit following the attacks.
Police said on Wednesday they were investigating the claim, but had not yet confirmed its origin or authenticity and would not rule out the possibility it was a hoax.
Sidney Jones, a JI expert with the International Crisis Group think-tank, said the claim was “plausibly genuine, though it’s difficult to say for sure”.
Ms Jones said that in 2005, Mr Top had issued a similar statement in the name of al-Qaeda of the Malaysian Archipelago. She noted the wording this time paid tribute to Azahari Husin and a man known as Jabir, whose real name is Gempur Budi Angkoro. Both men were known to have been close to Mr Top but were killed by police in 2005 and 2006 respectively.
Indonesian police have still not identified the two suicide bombers killed in the blast, but have used DNA to rule out Nur Hasbi, an associate of Mr Top and originally one of the top suspects.
The police have failed to locate another suspect, Ibrahim, who worked as a florist at the Ritz Carlton and who has not been seen since the attacks.
In addition to the four people killed at the networking meeting, one Indonesian employee at the Marriott was killed and two Dutch citizens at the Ritz Carlton hotel.
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