Bali bombing victims remembered with memorial service

Monday, October 13, 2003

BALI, Indonesia -- More than 2,000 people, many of them weeping and clutching relatives, gathered at a hilltop amphitheater on Bali island Sunday to remember those killed in last year's nightclub bombings and condemn the terrorists responsible for the attack.

Most were Australian family members of those who died or survivors of the Oct. 12, 2002, blasts. The attacks killed 202 people, mainly foreign tourists at two packed clubs on the Indonesian island. Seven of the dead were Americans.

Similar memorial services were held across Australia on Sunday. In Sydney, several thousand mourners gathered on a windswept headland to dedicate a bronze sculpture to the victims.

The attack, the bloodiest since the Sept. 11, 2001, strikes against the United States, was blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional terror group with links to al-Qaida.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard also attended the early morning service, which featured Christian hymns, Bible passages and popular songs. The names of the dead were read out.

"Yours is a loss that can never be recovered," Howard told the families of the victims. "We haven't forgotten you, we never will. Australia will never forget October 12, 2002."

Representatives of the 22 nations that lost citizens in the attack lit candles in memory of the dead. They came from across the world, including Brazil, South Africa, Portugal, the United States, South Korea, Australia and Indonesia.

The ceremony comes amid fresh terror fears in the world's most populous Muslim nation. Bali's police chief Inspector-General I Made Mangku Pastika warned Saturday that militants linked to the Bali blasts still possessed two bombs and were becoming more adept at avoiding police detection.

As the mourners left the amphitheater hewed out of a limestone hill, they passed photos of all the dead. Many cried and hugged.

"It's just so disappointing to see all the people who lost their lives. I can't get over it. They were just here for a good time," said Lincoln Filimaua, who lost his sister in the attacks.

Indonesian Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono vowed that Jakarta, which has been accused of being soft on terrorism, would bring to justice those still wanted in the attack.

"These diabolical men and their friends of evil simply have no place in our society," he said to applause. "They belong in our darkest dungeon."

Hundreds of police guarded the Garuda Wisnu Cultural Park, where the ceremony was held. The complex, dominated by huge statues of the Hindu God Wisnu and the mythical Garuda bird, overlooks the tourist playground of Jimbaran beach.

Unlike the rest of mostly Muslim Indonesia, Bali is mainly Hindu.

Bali Gov. Dewa Made Beratha earlier said that Hindus would not normally commemorate the anniversary of a death because of their belief in reincarnation. Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri did not attend the service, and instead hosted a state visit by Algeria's president in Jakarta.

Later Sunday, Howard laid a wreath at a monument erected at the bomb site in the bustling Kuta tourist strip. As he left the area, around 100 Australians chanted soccer-style, "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!"

Australia, which lost 88 citizens in the bombings, organized the ceremony despite travel warnings by its government advising citizens to avoid Indonesia because of the risk of more terror attacks.

Howard also visited the island's Sanglah Hospital, which treated many of the dying and injured in the hours after the bombings, and toured the site of a burn unit that will be financed by Australia.

"It's been a very, very moving event," Howard said. "I hope all the various events today will of been help to families who lost so many of their loved ones. That's the most important thing for me."

Just before 11 p.m. on Oct. 12, 2002, a dark Mitsubishi L300 minivan packed with 110 pounds of explosives pulled in front of the Sari Club. An Indonesian later identified as Iqbal walked into the Paddy's nightclub wearing a bomb concealed in a vest. It was the first known suicide bombing in Indonesian history.

The initial bomb at Paddy's sent the crowd scrambling into the street and toward the Sari Club. Many who died in the second, much larger explosion were fleeing the first one.

Since the Bali attack, police have arrested 35 defendants and convicted 21 for their role in the terror attack, including three sentenced to death and one to life in jail. Fourteen more remain to be tried.

Jemaah Islamiyah, which allegedly has cells across Southeast Asia, has also been blamed for the Aug. 5 car bombing of the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta that killed 12 people and for a series of earlier bombings across Indonesia.

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