Britain Received 'Generic' Threat Before Bali Bombing

Mike Wendling | London Bureau Chief | Friday, October 18, 2002

Britain Received 'Generic' Threat Before Bali Bombing

London ( - As investigators continue to probe a nightclub bombing that killed more than 180 people in Indonesia, the British government came under fire Friday from opposition parties demanding to know if Prime Minster Tony Blair's administration had prior warning of the attack.

About 30 Britons died in last weekend's bombing outside a club popular with tourists on the island of Bali.

Government officials confirmed that Britain had received warnings of a possible terror threat to Indonesian islands but had no detailed information about the exact location of an attack.

"There was generic threat information which covered Bali as well as quite a number of other islands in Indonesia," said Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

"We had no specific warnings of an attack in Bali. We didn't have any warnings. The U.S. didn't, Australia didn't. It was for that reason we issued no warnings," he said.

As a result of the general information, a notice was posted on the Foreign Office website on Aug. 27 warning travelers to be vigilant when visiting Indonesia.

But opposition politicians were wondering why U.S. citizens had been given more specific warnings about possible attacks against bars frequented by Westerners.

U.S. intelligence sources cited in the Washington Post and other newspapers said that the CIA received warnings about a number of resorts in Southeast Asia in September.

The information was passed on to the British and Australian governments and resulted in U.S. warnings - including one that came two days before the Bali bombing.

Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith noted that U.S. citizens were warned before the attack to avoid nightclubs and public places.

"The U.S. government warned its citizens as recently as last Thursday to stay away from venues such as nightclubs in certain countries," Duncan Smith said. "Two days later, on the morning of the bombing, the American embassy in Jakarta told its citizens in Indonesia to avoid places frequented by Westerners."

"Meanwhile, the Australian government has admitted that it didn't act on similar intelligence from the CIA," he said, referring to earlier comments by Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

"The British people need to know what warnings about a potential terrorist attack were received by the U.K. government, when those warnings were received, what action was taken and whether the prime minister is content that all necessary steps were taken to protect British citizens," he said.

The Conservatives asked the government to reveal all relevant intelligence information obtained prior to the bombing and to disclose details of discussions that occurred after an attempted terror attack on the British High Commission in Jakarta in December last year

"The foreign secretary should have nothing to fear by being absolutely open," said party defense spokesman Bernard Jenkin. "Nothing damages confidence more than governments giving the impression that they have something to hide."
On Thursday, U.K. citizens were advised to cancel all non-essential trips to Indonesia and to leave the country as soon as possible. The warnings were similar to those issued by the U.S. and Australian governments earlier in the week.

"We can't predict when they will strike next, we can't predict where. But we have to be honest that there will be further attacks," Blair said.

See earlier story:
Australia Says It Had No Forewarning of Bali Attack (16 Oct. 2002)

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