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Car bombing in Indonesia kills at least 13

NUSA DUA, INDONESIA — NUSA DUA, Indonesia - A station wagon full of explosives blew up yesterday in the horseshoe-shaped driveway between a Marriott hotel, a large restaurant and an office building in Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, killing at least 13 people and injuring nearly 150, many seriously.

The blast devastated the restaurant, a popular gathering place for expatriates and wealthy Indonesians, which was full of people having lunch when the vehicle detonated.

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The explosion seriously damaged the lower floors of the 33-floor hotel and caused considerable damage to the office building, which houses the embassies of four Scandinavian countries and the Indonesian offices of many American companies.

Indonesian officials said the vehicle was apparently moving at the time of the blast and suggested this meant that the attack was the work of a suicide bomber.

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Hamzah Haz, Indonesia's vice president, said the attack appeared to have been aimed at U.S. interests in the country. Marriott is an American-owned company.

The explosion came during the final days of the trials of men accused of planning and carrying out the twin bombing attacks here on the island of Bali last October. Those attacks, in the city of Kuta, killed 202 people and have been attributed to Jemaah Islamiyah, a group linked to al-Qaida that is believed to favor the creation of a Muslim state in southeast Asia.

The first verdict, involving the trial of Amrozi, the man accused of playing a central role in planning the Bali attacks, is scheduled to be handed down tomorrow.

Abu Bakar Bashir, a 64-year-old cleric whom intelligence officials have described as leading Jemaah Islamiyah, is being tried separately for subversion, although he is not accused of direct involvement in the Bali attacks. He has denied that Jemaah Islamiyah exists.

The man believed to be the group's top bomb-making expert, Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, escaped from a jail in the Philippines last month. Another activist often described as the former operations chief of Jemaah Islamiyah, Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, has been the subject of an international hunt by law enforcement agencies since 2001.

John Wolf, a Marriott spokesman, said that 273 guests were registered at the 333-room hotel when the explosion occurred. Three guests and eight hotel employees were injured, Wolf said, adding that while no Marriott employees had been killed, he did not know whether any guests were among the dead.

The heavily damaged restaurant was affiliated with the hotel but was not in the main hotel building.

Indonesian officials said that one foreigner had died in the explosion but did not provide the foreigner's name or nationality.

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PT Rabobank Duta Indonesia, a bank that is majority-owned by Rabobank of the Netherlands, later announced that the blast had killed a Dutch citizen, Hans Winkelmolen, who had been its president until last Friday, when his successor arrived.

The White House strongly condemned the bombing and said it would provide any assistance possible to Indonesia. Australia also condemned the bombing.

An Indonesian official said his country had already sought the help of Australian investigators, who played a substantial role after the Bali bombings.

Indonesia has been struggling to rebuild its large tourism industry since the Bali bombings, and yesterday's blast is likely to hurt that effort.

Only one table out of two dozen was occupied at lunchtime Sunday at a restaurant in an upscale shopping area near the ocean in Bali. A waiter said that in August of last year, every table was occupied at lunch and there was usually a line of people waiting for tables.

The restaurant has cut staff from 30 to 13 and might have to dismiss more employees, the waiter said.


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