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Key Bomb Witness Dies in West Java

December 30, 2000

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ A man who authorities described as a key witness in a wave of deadly Christmas Eve bombings has died, raising the death toll to 17, news reports said Saturday.

Wawan Wahidin bin Engkos died Friday of injuries he suffered in a blast at what police say was a makeshift bomb factory in Bandung, 80 miles southeast of Jakarta, the daily Kompas reported. Authorities suspect devices made at the Bandung workshop were used in the series of bombings targeting Christian churches in nine cities across this overwhelmingly Muslim archipelago nation.

Most of the bombs were placed in cars parked near churches, including the Roman Catholic cathedral in Jakarta. Fifteen people died on the day of the blasts, and a teen-age boy who was wounded died Thursday in East Java province. No one has claimed responsibility for the explosions.

Three people died instantly in the blast that killed Engkos, while another person who was injured was still in a hospital intensive care ward.

Police have arrested two suspects from the alleged bomb factory, but the owner of the building is still at large. Two other suspects also have been arrested.

President Abdurrahman Wahid, who said the attacks were aimed at destabilizing his government, has urged patience and said those responsible will soon be brought to justice.

Christians make up less than 10 percent of Indonesia’s 210 million people. Many are from the ethnic Chinese minority, which has been targeted by Muslims during past civil unrest.

Authorities planned to deploy at least 18,000 soldiers and other security personnel in Jakarta alone during New Year celebrations.

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