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Indonesian Police Probe Blasts

People evacuate as a bomb explodes at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Jakarta on July 17
JAKARTA (Reuters) -- Indonesian police have said that deadly attacks on two Jakarta hotels used the same methods and equipment as previous bombings by the militant Jemaah Islamiah group.

Investigators were working to reconstruct the face one of the suspected suicide bombers from the attacks on the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton on July 17 that killed nine people and wounded 53.

The two hotels were popular with foreign business executives and diplomats and considered to be among the most secure buildings in the capital.

The blasts left some bodies so badly mutilated they were difficult to identify and two decapitated corpses were believed by police to belong to the suicide bombers.

"We are trying to reconstruct the face of one of the heads we found to see if it matches the guest from 1808. We will ask witnesses and receptionists, is it him?" police spokesman Nanan Soekarna told a news conference on July 19.

Police said the bombers had checked in to the Marriott as paying guests on July 15 and had assembled the bombs in their room. A third bomb was found and defused in a laptop computer bag in room 1808.

Soekarna said the attacks bore the hallmarks of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), the radical militant Islamist group responsible for a string of deadly attacks in Jakarta and on the resort island of Bali that seemed to end in 2005.

"Of course they are from the same school as Jemaah Islamiah," he said.

"The method, the equipment used is the same as both bombs in Bali and the one found in Cilacap," he added, referring to the Bali attacks in 2002 and 2005, and bomb equipment police recently found during raids in Cilacap, Central Java.

Identities Not Known

Speculation over the identity of the bombers has been rife and some newspapers have put forward a name for one and suggested one could be a woman, but police said that it did not know their identity and that they believed the bombers were men.

"We don't know the names of any of the bombers," said another police spokesman, Sulistyo Ishak.

Police also said they had no evidence that the bombers had used a staff tunnel connecting the adjacent U.S.-owned hotels.

Ansyaad Mbai, head of the anti-terrorism desk at Indonesia's security ministry, said the attacks may be linked to a fugitive Malaysian-born militant Noordin Top, who is believed to have broken away from JI to form a more radical wing.

Mbai was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara that the government was stepping up efforts to find Noordin Top, who has been linked to a string of attacks, as a priority.

Sidney Jones, a Jakarta-based expert on Islamic militancy at the International Crisis Group, also said that the attacks had the hallmarks of Noordin Top.

"The most important hallmark is the suicide bombing as a method of attack and also the targeting of iconic Western symbols, both of those are associated more with Noordin than with mainstream Jemaah Islamiah," Jones told Reuters in an interview.

Security was increased at shopping malls and hotels across Jakarta at the weekend.

"I feel safe. The bombs have already exploded. Its safer just after they go off," said Australian Aaron Lumsden, 15, who was eating lunch at the Bellagio mall in central Jakarta.

The Four Seasons Hotel in Jakarta was briefly evacuated on the morning of July 19 after a bomb scare, although guests were later allowed to return after a search, a receptionist said.

The casualties of the July 17 attacks included citizens of Indonesia, the United States, Australia, South Korea, the Netherlands, Italy, Britain, Canada, Norway, Japan and India.

The blasts are a severe blow for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was re-elected earlier this month in a landslide victory on the back of strong growth in Southeast Asia's biggest economy.