A bomb ripped through a crowded Indonesian meat market ahead of New Year celebrations, killing at least eight people and wounding 45 in a province that has long been plagued by sectarian violence, officials said.
The attack in the Central Sulawesi town of Palu followed repeated warnings from authorities that the al-Qaeda-linked militant group Jemaah Islamiyah was plotting holiday strikes in the world's most populous Muslim nation.
Brigadier General Oegroseno, the provincial police chief, said a bomb packed with ball bearings and nails went off as people were flocking to the market early yesterday to buy pork for the night's festivities.
"The explosion was so loud, I couldn't hear for a couple of seconds," said Tega, a resident who lived nearby, as police carried bloodied victims into ambulances. "I ran out of my house and saw bodies lying around."
The religious affiliations of the dead were not immediately released, but they were believed to be Christians.
The market sold only pig and dog meat, both of which are forbidden under Islam.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned the blast, which occurred despite heightened security nationwide -- more than 47,000 soldiers and police had been deployed at churches, shopping centers and hotels to try to ward off terror attacks over Christmas and the New Year holiday.
Police said it was too early to say who was behind yesterday's bombing, but suspicion immediately fell on Jemaah Islamiyah.
The terror network has been blamed for more than a dozen attacks since 1998, ranging from spectacular car bombings on the resort island of Bali to less deadly strikes on churches, restaurants and markets.
In all, more than 260 people have died in attacks attributed to the group.
Hospital workers and intelligence officials said at least eight people were killed in yesterday's attack and Oegroseno said another 45 were wounded.