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Bush condemns Bali bombings

From Suzanne Malveaux

Police inspect the Bali blast site.
Police inspect the Bali blast site.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The bombings in Indonesia that killed at least 187 people were "a cowardly act designed to create terror and chaos," President Bush said in a statement released Sunday.

U.S. officials fear the fatal attacks, believed to be aimed at foreign tourists and possibly at Americans, may be proof that the reach of the al Qaeda terrorist network is growing.

Shortly after the explosions, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, Ralph Boyce, said in Jakarta, "There have been problems in Indonesia of late involving signs that al Qaeda may have been involved in activities here. We've always suspected that, but some things recently mean that we can more or less confirm."

A senior State Department official told CNN that Bush is sending an FBI team to help Indonesian officials investigate who is responsible for the Saturday night explosions. Many of the dead and wounded were Australians. Two American citizen and five Britons were among the confirmed dead.

The official said the United States was still trying to assess the number of American victims, but that it would take time "because it is such a gruesome scene. In some cases we will need dental records to identify the victims."

A non-fatal blast occurred Saturday just outside the U.S. consular office in Bali.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jo-Anne Prokopowicz said all nonessential government personnel and dependents have been ordered to leave Indonesia. She also advised American citizens to avoid traveling there because of increased security concerns arising from the bombings, Reuters news agency reported.

The president and first lady leave church Sunday.
The president and first lady leave church Sunday.

"We are urging all American citizens in Indonesia to depart," she said. "We expect close to 300 dependents and U.S. officials in nonemergency positions will be departing."

The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta and the consulate in Surabaya would remain open but may suspend service or close periodically because of security concerns, she said.

The attacks came just three days after the State Department issued a worldwide alert warning Americans they may be targeted by terrorists. The State Department has had a travel warning in effect for Indonesia for more than a year, but Bali had been considered relatively safe.

In the last week, U.S. officials said, they have seen evidence of al Qaeda's deadly intent. A French tanker was blown up at a port in Yemen, similar to the attack carried out two years ago against the USS Cole. Two Marines were ambushed in Kuwait last Sunday, and audio tapes of both Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenant recently surfaced with messages that "al Qaeda continues to plan major attacks against U.S. interests."

"There have been indications recently overseas and otherwise that the al Qaeda, which is dispersed now around the world, including some perhaps in the U.S. -- that these are signals for attacks," Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, vice chair of the intelligence committee, told ABC's "This Week." "What happened last week with the tanker, what happened with the shooting of the Marines in Kuwait, now in Indonesia. I think these are indications that a lot of things are coming together."

Senior officials fear al Qaeda is now re-emerging as a more dispersed but deadly network that is far more difficult to contain. The bombing in Indonesia is just another piece of evidence, the Bush administration argues, for the United States to expand its war on terror.

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