Mourners mark the 20th anniversary of Indonesia’s Bali bombings

Mourners mark the 20th anniversary of Indonesia’s Bali bombings


Hundreds of mourners and survivors on Wednesday commemorated the 20th anniversary of the bombings that killed more than 200 people on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

Mourning families, attack survivors and representatives from several embassies will attend a memorial in Kuta, Bali’s popular tourist hub, where al Qaeda-linked militants detonated October 12, 2002 bombs at a bar and nightclub.

“It’s okay that some people have forgotten what happened 20 years ago, but there are still real victims, there are children who lost their parents in the bombing,” said Thiolina Marpaung, one of the organizers of the memorial , who fell behind in attack with permanent eye injuries.

“I don’t want them to be forgotten,” the 47-year-old told AFP.

The candlelight vigil will be held at a memorial erected meters from the site of the blasts by the victims’ families to commemorate the deadliest terrorist attack in Southeast Asia and to commemorate the 202 victims.

Most were foreign holidaymakers from more than 20 countries, but Australia suffered the biggest loss with 88 dead.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said at a memorial service in Sydney on Wednesday that the horror of the bombings was quickly met with incredible self-sacrifice and bravery.

“They tried to create terror, but people ran towards terror to do what they could for friends and strangers alike,” he told a crowd that gathered on the city’s famous Coogee Beach in light rain.

During the memorial service, 88 pigeons were released – one for every Australian killed.

Albanese said the Bali bombings had left a lasting mark on Australia’s national identity, much like the devastating Gallipoli campaign of World War I.

– ‘Haunt Me Forever’ –

In Bali, the Australian Consulate also held a memorial service attended by Ambassador to Indonesia Penny Williams and Deputy Foreign Secretary Tim Watts.

Relatives and survivors observed a minute’s silence before laying flowers and wreaths in the consulate’s memorial garden.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo will address families via video later in the day and former Australian Prime Minister John Howard will deliver a speech.

In Canberra, Australian Foreign Secretary Penny Wong attended a commemoration ceremony at the Parliament building along with Indonesian Ambassador Siswo Pramono.

The local militant group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), linked to al-Qaeda, has been blamed for the bombings, which took place at two popular nightspots, where all the casualties were recorded. Another device exploded harmlessly in front of the US consulate.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, has long struggled with Islamist militancy and security on the island was tightened ahead of Wednesday’s commemoration.

All of the leading perpetrators of the Bali attacks were either executed, killed by police, or imprisoned.

However, the Indonesian government is considering an early release of Balinese bomb-maker Umar Patek. He has only served half of his 20-year sentence.

Jakarta withheld his release after angering Australia and victims’ families, who say his impending release has caused fresh trauma ahead of the anniversary.

Survivors and families of the dead are still trying to reconcile the bombings that claimed dozens of lives at Sari Nightclub and Paddy’s Bar.

Paul Yeo’s brother Gerard was killed along with five other members of the Coogee Dolphins rugby league team celebrating their end-of-year trip.

“I was asked to identify him. My mind was torn as to whether I didn’t know if what I was about to see would haunt me forever or whether I just had the privilege of seeing you one last time,” Yeo said at the memorial.

“I’ve never been so scared.”

Ben Tullipan, who lost both legs in the blasts, said he’s still grappling with the guilt of survivors 20 years later.

“I think of all the people who didn’t make it and what they would do,” he told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

“And how lucky I am to be here.”

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