BALI, Indonesia (AP) – A Muslim cleric jailed for the 2002 Bali bombings said Tuesday the latest attacks on the tropical island were a warning from God, and the blasts triggered security scares and travel alerts.

From his prison cell, Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir – the group’s alleged spiritual leader – said in a statement that the attacks were a sign of God’s displeasure with the Indonesian government.

“I suggest the government bring themselves closer to God by implementing his rules and laws because these happenings are warnings from God for all of us,” said Bashir, convicted of conspiracy over the 2002 Bali attacks.

Indonesia, meanwhile, resisted pressure to outlaw the shadowy militant group suspected in Saturday’s bombings at three crowded restaurants that killed 22 people and wounded 104.

Suspicious packages were found at six embassies in Malaysia – including Canada, Germany, and Thailand – forcing evacuations and the closure of the Japanese mission. The parcels, which threatened retaliation for injustices against Muslims, were later dismissed as a hoax.

Australia warned of more possible attacks on Bali, pinpointing a popular entertainment district just north of the weekend suicide bombings as one target.

Indonesian police stepped up their investigation into the coordinated attacks on Bali.

Two men have been taken in for questioning in connection with the bombings, but have not been officially named as suspects, said Bali police chief I Made Mangku Pastika, who did not provide further details.

They recovered bomb scraps – ball bearings, batteries, cables and detonators – and searched at least three rented homes in the eastern part of Bali’s capital, Denpasar, the official Antara news agency reported.

No one has claimed responsibility for the bombings, but suspicion immediately fell on the al-Qaida linked regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Indonesia shrugged off renewed pressure Tuesday to outlaw Jemaah Islamiyah – doing so could trigger opposition from Muslim groups and political parties – saying the group’s elusive nature would make it difficult to ban.

But that did not mean the government was soft on terrorism, said presidential spokesman Andi Malarangeng, stressing that “under whatever name, we will take harsh measures” against militants.

Macabre photos of the bombers’ severed heads – bruised and swollen but remarkably well-preserved – have been circulated nationwide, but no one has come forward with information.

Investigators have not announced any major breakthroughs, although they are hopeful the pictures could help them track down the masterminds.

The bombers might have been new recruits who had yet to be included on watch lists by regional intelligence agencies, according to two men who have had close ties to Jemaah Islamiyah.

Nasir Abbas, who trained scores of militants in the late 1990s and is now a police informer, told The Associated Press he did not recognize the men.

Ali Imron, imprisoned for his role in bombings in 2002, was quoted by the Java Pos newspaper as saying he had never seen the suspects.

“It seems they could be people freshly recruited,” he was quoted as saying on the paper’s Web site Tuesday.

Indonesian officials had earlier said Saturday’s bombings were planned by Malaysian fugitives Azahari bin Husin and Noordin Mohamed Top – key Jemaah Islamiyah figures.

The organization, terror experts say, has been hard hit by a series of arrests in recent years, but may have formed alliances with other organizations or individuals.

Pastika said Tuesday it was too early to directly blame Azahari and Noordin – or Jemaah Islamiyah.

“We still do not know that,” he said, adding that investigators’ first priority was identifying the three bombers, who wore explosives around their waists or in bags over their shoulders. The blasts destroyed their torsos, but left their heads intact.

AP-ES-10-04-05 1102EDT


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