November 28, 2022

Prayers and wreaths mark 20th anniversary of Bali bombing

  • 202 people died in one of the world’s deadliest militant attacks
  • Ceremonies held near blast site in Bali and across Australia
  • The explosions were blamed on the regional jihadist network linked to Al-Qaeda
  • Indonesia set up an elite counter-terrorism unit after the attack

KUTA, Indonesia/SYDNEY, Oct 12 (Reuters) – Survivors of the Bali bombing, alongside families and friends of victims, prayed and laid wreaths on Wednesday to mark the 20th anniversary of the attacks, joining rallies staged near the site of the explosions in Indonesia and across Australia.

A total of 202 people, including 88 Australians and 38 Indonesians, were killed in a car bomb explosion outside the Sari Club in the Kuta Beach area of ​​Bali and another near-simultaneous explosion at Paddy’s Bar across the road on October 12, 2002.

People of around 20 other nationalities also died in the attacks on the island which is a popular holiday destination, especially for visitors from neighboring Australia.

A ceremony including prayers for peace and the symbolic release of 20 birds was among several events taking place on the predominantly Hindu island, including at a memorial erected in the area of ​​the blasts.

“The memorial for us is to remember, to remind everyone that there was a terrorist attack there and we don’t want it to happen again,” said Ni Luh Erniati, who lost his husband in the attack and joined in the morning prayers in Bali. with his children.

Australians gathered in major cities to remember the victims. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese spoke at a ceremony at Coogee Beach in Sydney, home of the Dolphins rugby team, which lost six members in the attacks.

“What they hit they couldn’t beat because what they hit was the idea of ​​us, the great fabric of dreams and ideals, of compassion and fairness that make of us who we are as Australians,” he said.

Survivors including Hanabeth Luke, whose rescue of 17-year-old Tom Singer from the smoking wreckage earned him the sobriquet ‘Angel of Bali’, joined Albanese at the waterfront memorial.

Two decades after the bombings, which were attributed to the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network, memories of the attack continue to haunt survivors.

Balinese father of two, I Dewa Ketut Rudita Widia Putra, was caught in traffic on the busy Kuta strip when the bombs exploded. After crawling out of his car, he was rushed to hospital with burns covering a third of his body.

“To this day, I still feel traumatized and scared when I get out of the car and get stuck in traffic,” the 55-year-old said.

“Even when I realize I’m not in the traffic jams of Kuta, I can be shaking in fear, breaking into cold sweats and really scared.”

MINUTE OF SILENCE

The Australian Consulate General also held a memorial in Bali on Wednesday, where wreaths were laid and some attendees hugged and wept as a minute’s silence was observed to remember those lost.

Vigils will continue throughout the day in Bali, including a commemoration by the police.

There is also to be a minute’s silence near the site of the blasts later Wednesday evening, followed by the sound of car horns, to mark the moment the bombs went off.

Following the Bali bombings and with the support of Australia and the United States, Indonesia set up an elite counter-terrorism unit called Special Detachment, or Densus 88, which weakened the JI and trained the arrest or death of dozens of suspected Islamic militants.

The world’s largest Muslim-majority country has also launched deradicalization programs for convicted activists, though these have been both praised and criticized for their effectiveness.

Causing dismay among many affected by the attacks, the Indonesian government said in August that Bali bombmaker Umar Patek was eligible for parole and could soon be freed.

Reporting by I Wayan Sukarda, Sultan Anshori in Bali and Lewis Jackson in Sydney; Written by Kate Lamb; Editing by Ed Davies and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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