Flowers and tears to mark the 20th anniversary of the Bali bombings
Hundreds of emotional people commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the Bali bombings, which killed more than 200 people, on Wednesday, the deadliest terrorist attack on the Southeast Asian archipelago.
Families of victims, survivors of the attacks and embassy officials, some with flowers, attended a ceremony in Kuta, the Bali resort town where Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda detonated bombs in a night box and bar in October 12th, 2002.
“I understand that some have forgotten what happened 20 years ago, but there are still real victims, there are children who lost their parents in the blasts,” Thiolina told AFP Marpaung, one of the victims.
Twenty years after the attacks, the 47-year-old Indonesian is still suffering from eye injuries. Desiring that the victims would not be “sunk into oblivion”, she was one of the organizers of this ceremony.
A vigil for the 202 victims Wednesday night has to be organized by their loved ones in front of a memorial located on the site of the site of the Sari Club and Paddy’s Bar that were hit by the attacks.
Most were vacationers from more than 20 countries. But Australia, whose 88 nationals died, was hardest hit.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese recalled at a ceremony in Sydney that the atrocities behind the attacks were accompanied by incredible courage.
“They tried to sow terror but people rushed to do what they could to help friends and strangers alike,” Australia’s Prime Minister told a crowd gathered on Coogee Beach in light rain .
A release of 88 pigeons marked the ceremony – one for every Australian killed.
– ‘Haunt Me Forever’ –
The Bali bombings left an indelible mark on Australia’s national identity, he said, as did the deadly Battle of the Dardanelles during World War I.
The Australian consulate also organized a ceremony in Bali.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo will address families via video later in the day, and former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who led the country during the attacks, will deliver a speech.
In Canberra, Secretary of State Penny Wong attended a ceremony in Parliament.
The attack in two tourist facilities has been attributed to the Indonesian Islamist organization Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which is linked to al-Qaeda. Another explosive device was also detonated in front of the American consulate in Bali, but caused no injuries.
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, is struggling with extremist movements that have carried out multiple attacks since the Bali attacks. The security system had been strengthened before the commemorations.
The main perpetrators of the attacks were executed, killed by the police or imprisoned.
But in recent weeks, preparations for the early release of Umar Patek, the “explosives expert” behind the bombings, have sparked protests from Canberra, the victims and their families.
Paul Yeo’s brother Gerard was killed along with five other members of Australia’s Coogee Dolphins rugby team who had left for a trip to Bali at the end of the year.
“I was asked to identify him. I was torn between whether what I was about to see would haunt me forever and the chance to see you one last time,” he said at the memorial .
“I’ve never been so scared.”
Ben Tullipan, who lost both legs in the blasts, said he still feels guilty 20 years later for surviving.
“I think of all those who didn’t make it and what they could have become,” he told Australian radio station ABC on Wednesday.
“And how lucky I am to be here.”
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