Bali honours bombing victims a decade on


KUTA – Worshippers at the Ar Rahmat mosque in the Indonesian town of Kuta have prayed every night for the past 10 years for the victims of the 2002 bombing in their tourist town on Bali island.

“We will pray for the rest of our lives,” said Usman, a Kuta resident, wearing a white gown and skullcap that mark him out as a Muslim on the mostly Hindu Indonesian island. Usman heard the explosions on October 12th, 2002, when two Islamist suicide bombers set off explosives at nightclubs packed with tourists, killing 202 people, including 88 Australians and a close friend of Usman’s whose remains were never found.

The blasts, just over a year after the September 11th, 2001, attacks in the US, were a watershed for Indonesia, a secular state with the world’s largest population of Muslims, the majority of whom are moderate. The bombs forced Indonesia to confront the presence of a small but dedicated group of followers of Osama bin Laden bent on attacking western targets.

For Australia, the bombing was the worst peacetime attack on its citizens, many of whom regard a holiday on Bali as a rite of passage. One effect of the attacks, however, was to strengthen relations between the neighbours who had long eyed each other suspiciously.

Australian prime minister Julia Gillard and Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa, along with relatives of some of those killed, attended a ceremony in Bali yesterday to commemorate the 10th anniversary.

“They attacked our people and, through them, sought to overwhelm our values. Here on these bustling streets they inflicted searing pain and grief that will never end. But even as the debris fell, it was obvious the attack on our sense of ourselves – as Australians, as human beings – had failed,” said Ms Gillard.

Bali’s tourism industry suffered for several years after the bombing but now attracts twice the number of visitors it did previously. – (Reuters)