DENPASAR, Indonesia (AP) — Hundreds gathered Wednesday on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali to mark the 20th anniversary of the blasts that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, including 88 Australians and seven Americans.
Services were held simultaneously in several locations in Australia and at the Australian Consulate in Bali in the town of Denpasar, where Australian survivors and relatives of the deceased were among 200 in attendance to pay their respects to their loved ones who died in the island’s most popular tourist area. two decades ago.
Survivors and relatives laid wreaths and flowers at the Memorial after a moment of silence.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese attended a service in his hometown of Sydney in the seaside suburb of Coogee. Six members of the Coogee Dolphins Rugby League football club died in the blasts.
Albanese paid tribute on Wednesday to the strength and unity the Coogee community had shown following the tragedy.
“Twenty years ago, shock waves from Bali reached our shores. Twenty years ago, an act of malice and calculated depravity robbed the world of 202 lives, including 88 Australians. “Twenty years later, the pain doesn’t fade,” Albanese said.
In a ceremony at the Australian Parliament in the national capital Canberra, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong welcomed Indonesian Ambassador Siswo Pramono, who was among the dignitaries.
“Mr. Ambassador, on behalf of the Australian government, I extend a warm welcome to you and acknowledge the strength, courage and cooperation of our two peoples,” Wong said in Bahasa, Indonesia’s official language.
“Today, we remember what was taken. Today, we remember what was lost. And we wonder what could have been if they had all returned home,” Wong added.
Pramono said the terrorist attack created a “better and stronger bond” between Indonesia and Australia.
“Twenty years ago today, a heinous crime struck and it was one of the saddest days in Indonesia’s history,” Pramono told the gathering.
“Family and friends were left with overwhelming grief and although many hearts were broken and loved ones taken from us, there are some things a terrorist could not take: our love and compassion for others and the idea that the people are equal in rights and freedoms,” added Pramono.
Survivors still struggle with their trauma of tragedy when a car bomb at the Sari Club and an almost simultaneous suicide bombing at nearby Paddy’s Pub on a Saturday night in October 2002.
After the attack, the busy tourist area was quiet for a while, but has since returned to busy weekend mode, full of traffic and tourists. What used to be the Sari Club is now an empty site, while Paddy’s Pub has resumed operations 100 meters (300 ft) from its original location.
A memorial is located less than 50 meters (yards) from the bombing sites with the names of the dead inscribed on it. People regularly come and pray and place flowers, candles or flags with photos of their loved ones.
A photo of two women tied with a bouquet of fresh chrysanthemums and roses sits next to a laminated note that reads: “To our beautiful girls Renae & Simone. It’s been twenty years and not a day goes by that I don’t think of you both, and how we lost two treasures. Our hearts will cry for you forever. We love you and miss you so much. Your loving papa and brothers.”
The 2002 attack in Bali, carried out by suicide bombers from the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, set off a wave of violence in the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Three years later, another bomb struck the island and killed 20 people. Numerous attacks followed, hitting embassies, hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, churches and even police headquarters across the archipelago nation.
Two decades after the Bali bombings, counterterrorism efforts in the world’s most populous Muslim country remain highly active. Indonesia established Densus 88, a national counter-terrorism unit, after the attacks. More than 2,300 people have since been arrested on terrorism charges, according to the Center for the Study of Radicalization and Deradicalization, a non-governmental Indonesian think tank.
In 2020, 228 people were arrested on terrorism charges. The number rose to 370 last year, underscoring authorities’ commitment to pursuing suspects even as the number of terror attacks in Indonesia has declined.
The hunt for suspects linked to the Bali bombings also continued, most recently with the arrest of Aris Sumarsono, 58, whose real name is Arif Sunarso but is better known as Zulkarnaen, in December 2020. The court sentenced him to 15 years in prison for his role. Indonesian authorities also suspect him of masterminding several other attacks in the country.
In August, the Indonesian government considered early release to the bomb maker of the Bali attack, Hisyam bin Alizein, 55, better known by his alias, Umar Patek, who has also been identified as a leading member of Jemaah Islamiyah.
Indonesian authorities said Patek was an example of successful efforts to reform convicted terrorists and that they planned to use him to influence others not to commit terrorist acts. But the Australian government has expressed strong opposition to his possible release.
McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia.