21 Jul 2009

Police try to rebuild face of suspected Jakarta bomber

11:51 am on 21 July 2009

Indonesian police are trying to rebuild the face on a severed head found at the scene of deadly hotel blasts in Jakarta in an attempt to identify one of two suspected suicide bombers.

The forensic work could provide a key breakthrough in the investigation into Friday's twin suicide attacks on the luxury JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels.

The attacks killed nine people, including New Zealander Timothy Mackay, and three Australians.

More than 53 people were injured in the blasts, which officials suspect were the work of regional Islamist network Jemaah Islamiah, responsible for the 2002 Bali attacks.

Reports in the Indonesian media said police believed one of the bombers was a student of a radical Islamic school in Solo, central Java, which has produced some of JI's most committed cadres.

Several reports identified the bomber seen in grainy security camera footage at the Marriott shortly before the blast as Nur Hasbi, alias Nurdin Aziz or Nur Sahid, a follower of Malaysian-born JI faction leader Noordin Top.

Senior anti-terrorist officials have said the attacks look like the work of Noordin, who leads a violent splinter faction of JI that advocates the mass killing of Westerners as a legitimate means of "holy war".

A police crackdown - including key arrests and the inducement of militants to defect - has hobbled JI in Indonesia and severed its links to foreign funds in recent years.

But while the network is diminished, analysts say JI has been able to fall back on a tight network of schools and marriages to maintain cohesion and possibly rebuild.

Obama intent to returning to Jakarta

United States President Barack Obama still wants to visit his old hometown of Jakarta perhaps later this year, despite the blasts.

"I have no reason to believe that the events of the past few days have changed or lessened the president's desire" to visit Indonesia, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs said.

Mr Obama lived in Jakarta from 1967 to 1971 after his mother remarried an Indonesian national.