Indonesians Gather to Mark Bali Bombings
BALI, Indonesia (AP) _ Survivors and relatives of the 202 people killed in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings gathered at the site of the attacks Wednesday, sharing tears and prayer and vowing to unite against the ``terrorism menace″ on the attack’s third anniversary.
Security was tight across the Indonesian resort island, where just 11 days ago suspected al-Qaida linked militants carried out a second series of attacks on crowded restaurants, killing 23 people, including the three suicide bombers.
Snipers were deployed on buildings and thousands of police were stationed at beaches, resorts and lanes leading to the ceremony at the heart of the island’s famous Kuta tourist district.
Around 200 people turned out at the site of the nightclub bombings for the early morning service. They gathered around a granite memorial engraved with the names of those who died Oct. 12, 2002.
Among those attending was Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, whose nation lost 88 citizens in the bombings. Four Australians were also among the victims in this month’s blasts.
``I know the passing of three years ... does not make gathering here any easier for many of you _ and our hearts are all the heavier following the heinous attacks of just over a week ago,″ he said.
But it is important to take a determined stance against terrorists, he said, noting that Australia has been working with Indonesian law enforcement agencies to hunt down the perpetrators of violence.
Later in the day, more than 1,000 people gathered at a field in Denpasar to pray for peace on the island. About 500 demonstrators also protested peacefully outside the main Kerobokan prison, demanding those responsible for the 2002 attacks be executed.
In Australia, lawmakers gathered with survivors of terrorism and families of victims at a memorial garden in Sydney. Ceremonies were also held across the country.
Bali’s image as a tropical paradise was shattered when an Islamic militant walked into Paddy’s nightclub on a busy Saturday night, setting off a bomb attached to his vest. Minutes later, a larger car bomb exploded outside the nearby Sari Club. Many of those killed were fleeing the first blast.
Most of the victims were young backpackers, but they also included grandparents, businessmen and rugby players in town for a tournament.
Those attending the service observed 202 seconds of silence in memory of the victims and bowed their heads as an Australian man who lost his son in the attack read out a prayer. They then filed past the memorial, some crying as they laid wreaths or dropped petals in the pond in front of it.
``It is important to keep remembering those we lost,″ said Australian Natalie Juniardi, whose husband John was killed in the blasts. She was 3 1/2 months pregnant when the attacks occurred, and now cares for that child and the couples’ older one alone.
Many survivors who did not attend the ceremony said they preferred to remember their loved ones privately with friends and family.
``It’s not my time anymore,″ said Peter Hughes, a bombing victim who visited Bali over the weekend with his son but left ahead of the ceremony. ``You have to move on at some stage.″
Ben Boyden, a member of the Taipei Baboons rugby team, which lost five people in the blasts, said his teammates would gather in Taiwan for a quiet evening of drinks.
Many of those who attended the ceremony brushed off warnings by foreign governments that tourists should stay away from Indonesia because more terrorist attacks were likely, and said that this month’s strikes made them more determined to come.
``I want to stop coming on my terms, not on the terms of terrorists. I’ll come as long as I can walk,″ said William Hardy, who lost his son, Billy, in the blasts. ``They have taken away my son, they cannot stop me from doing something I need to do.″
The regional al-Qaida-linked militant group Jemaah Islamiyah is accused in the 2002 blasts and those this month, as well as two other deadly strikes in the world’s most populous Muslim nation in the last two years.
Courts on Bali have sentenced 35 militants over the blasts, three of whom were given the death penalty after admitting they launched the attacks to avenge the U.S. governments support of Israel and its attacks on Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.