Ten years on, Bali remembers bomb dead
JIMBARAN, Indonesia – (VNS) Hundreds of survivors and relatives of the dead remembered the 202 people killed in the Bali bombings on Friday, in an emotional ceremony to mark 10 years since the atrocity.
On October 12, 2002, suicide bombers attacked two packed nightspots, pitching Indonesia into a battle with Islamic militancy and dealing a massive blow to Australia, which lost 88 people.
Families and survivors shaded themselves under Australian flags as they listened solemnly to a seemingly endless roll call of the dead, some crying or leaning on loved ones' shoulders as they observed a minute's silence. In a poignant address, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard recognised the terrible legacy of the attacks, saying "wounds and scars abound, healed and unhealed, but nothing can replace the empty seat at your table."
She recognised "the faultline that will always divide your lives into two halves: before Bali and after Bali" but praised the resilience of her people and said Indonesia and Australia "drew closer" than ever before.
The strike against the Sari Club and Paddy's Bar by the al-Qaeda-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah, which also left scores with horrific burn wounds, came one year after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
Indonesia, which has the world's biggest Muslim population, won praise for its response to the bombings, and was also lauded for its actions after subsequent attacks in 2005 in which 20 people were killed on the island.
In the 10 years since the 2002 attacks, all of the leading Bali perpetrators have either been executed, killed by police or jailed.
Delivering remarks to the thousand-strong crowd of mourners, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said his country was unbowed and remained committed to fighting extremism so that "humanity prevails over hatred." "The terrorists sought not only to kill and maim, their attack was nothing less than an assault on humanity," he said.
Under sunny skies, the ceremony in a large cultural park heard moving tributes from families of the victims, who died as bombers hit the two nightspots on Bali's party strip in Kuta, and readings and prayers from Christian, Hindu and Muslim leaders.
Thirty-eight of those killed were from Indonesia, which was stunned by the atrocity on the resort island.
Bali's fortunes bounced back after a massive slump in tourist numbers following the attack, and the deadly bombing in 2005, with record numbers of Australians returning to the its beaches.
Reflecting on the legacy of attacks, John Howard, the Australian prime minister at the time, praised the "Australian spirit" and said terror had brought Indonesia and Australia together in grief and a determination to recover from the assault. The ceremony was held under the watch of 2,000 police and military personnel, including snipers, after Indonesia issued its top alert due to a "credible" terror threat to the island, although authorities moved on Thursday to ease fears of an attack.
Many in Australia felt the 2002 bombing was directed at their country and emotionally charged remembrance ceremonies took place across Australia on Friday, with Foreign Minister Bob Carr praising the nation's response to the atrocity. -- AFP