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Howard Promises 'Measured' Response to Bali Bombings - 2002-10-16

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has described the bomb attack on the Indonesian Bali as "barbaric, brutal, mass murder". In the Federal Parliament Mr. Howard promised a firm yet measured response to the killings. But some politicians urge Mr. Howard to act cautiously, to avoid endangering the country's civil liberties.

Prime Minister John Howard says the day of the bombing, October 12, will be remembered as the day evil struck with "indescribable savagery." No one has admitted responsibility for the attack Saturday, which has killed at least 180 people and injured hundreds more. Most of the victims are thought to be Australian.

Indonesian and Australian officials have said they suspect the bombing is the work of the al-Qaeda terror network.

Mr. Howard told the Federal Parliament in the capital Canberra, the authorities also suspect the involvement another militant Islamic group in Indonesia, the Jemaah Islamiah. The conservative government here is expected to beef up anti-terror laws, which have only recently been revamped.

Doing so may not be easy. Two opposition parties, the Greens and the Democrats, will resist any move to change Australia's anti-terror legislation. The main opposition party, Labor, also has expressed its reservations.

The Greens' Lee Rhiannon urges the government not to act too hastily. "I think we need to be careful to make sure that the government doesn't use the incidents in Bali and the time now, which is for mourning, to take that step further and try to crackdown further on civil liberties," said Ms. Rhiannon.

Even some conservatives are concerned. Bronwyn Bishop, a former member of Parliament, recommends a cautious approach. "We always have to be careful to balance the freedoms that we cherish, that we don't let the other side win by taking away our freedoms," she said.

Around Australia, government buildings will fly the national flag at half-mast as a mark of respect.

The government has dispatched a team of investigators to assist the international task force set up to hunt the bombers. Forensic teams will also help identify the remaining bodies.

The prime minister, Mr. Howard, warns Australians that the attackers won't be easy to catch and has predicted a long, hard struggle to find them.