JAKARTA - A decade after twin bombs decimated two popular Bali nightclubs, the families of victims and survivors gathered Friday morning to pay tribute to their loved ones lost in the terrorist attack.
Indonesia’s resort island was on a high terror alert in the lead-up to Friday’s commemorative vigil. Some 2,000 military and police officers, including snipers, were dispatched to secure the ceremony.
Australian national Jan Laczynski traveled to the event on a bus with armed guards and noted people were nervous but determined to attend the memorial service.
Jan said the losses in Bali, as displayed at this morning’s vigil, are still raw.
“Yeah, obviously it was emotional as one would expect it to be," Jan said. "There wasn't a dry eye anywhere to be see, which is interesting because I think prior to the 10-year anniversary I think some people were coping well, but once you get to the 10th anniversary it really hits you, 10 years to the day that it happened, 10 years to the day that lives changed forever.”
The Bali bombings claimed the lives of 202 people, including 88 Australians and seven Americans, and injured more than 200 others.
Jan - who fortuitously left the Sari Club just hours before the bomb exploded - lost five friends in the attacks.
But it’s not only tragedy that he considers when he visits Bali’s ground zero site. A year after the attacks, he met his future wife while lighting a candle at the memorial ceremony.
Among dignitaries speaking in Bali Friday, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard also emphasized the triumph of the human spirit - of humanity over hatred - that the bombings exposed.
“But even as the debris fell, it was obvious the attack on our sense of ourselves as Australians, as human beings, had failed," Gillard said. "Rescuers ran towards the terror. Volunteers extended their hands by the hundreds, Indonesians and Australians alike. A remarkable medical effort swung into place. A thorough policing effort followed, methodically dismantling the terrorist network responsible and our two countries drew closer than we had ever been before."
Coming a year after the September 11 attacks in the United States, the Bali bombings saw Indonesia become a hotspot in the global war on terror. And more attacks followed.
In 2005, an attack in the Bali beachside town of Jimabran killed 20 people. In 2009, the twin bombing of two five-star hotels in Jakarta killed nine people.
But analysts like Todd Elliot, a Jakarta-based risk analyst for Concorde Consulting, say Indonesia’s terrorism landscape has changed significantly since the Bali explosions.
“At the time of the 2002 Bali bombings, terrorist groups in Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia were generally focused on the far enemy, meaning the U.S. and its allies and al-Qaida's call for global jihad," Elliot said. "Since that time terrorism in Indonesia has become much more local and focused on domestic issues, such as targeting the Indonesian government which is perceived as infidels for not imposing sharia law and also targeting minority religions, and morality issues.”
Analysts today say that while the Indonesian government’s counterterrorist crackdown has largely disabled Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI - the al-Qaida-linked terror network behind the Bali bombings - ad hoc, splinter jihadists remain a real threat.
More than 700 JI members have been jailed in the past 10 years, and almost all of the major perpetrators of the Bali bombings have been executed.