(Update: adds victim’s remarks, details on memorial events)
Jakarta/Sydney, Oct 12 (EFE).- Hundreds of people gathered on the Indonesian island of Bali on Wednesday to pay tribute to the more than 200 people killed in the nightclub bombings 20 years ago.
At the consulate of Australia, which lost 88 citizens in the attacks, survivors and relatives of the victims gathered for a memorial service where some spoke and many lay wreaths in remembrance of their loved ones.
A ceremony was also held at the monument erected in memory of the victims in the area where the fatal explosions took place.
“Even though two decades have passed, I still feel pain, but also gratitude because at least I can see and get a job,” Thiolina Marpaung, an Indonesian survivor of the attack whose eyes were injured on the night of 12 October 2002, told Efe.
The ceremony at the memorial, on which the names of the victims are engraved, was attended by Australia’s assistant foreign minister, Tim Watts, who said he was “deeply honored and moved” to be present at the gathering, which also saw the symbolic release of several doves.
A total of 202 people, mostly foreigners from more than 20 countries and 38 Indonesians, were killed and hundreds were wounded on Oct. 12, 2002 just after 11 pm when a suicide bomber detonated explosives in Paddy’s Pub in the tourist resort area of Kuta, and almost simultaneously, a car bomb exploded outside Sari nightclub across the street.
Another bomb exploded near the US consulate in Denpasar, causing no deaths.
“The Bali bombing has given us a fighting spirit to never fear when it comes to overcoming radicalism and terrorism,” Da’i Bachtiar, the then-Indonesia national police chief said in a recorded speech on Wednesday.
“What is important is that we find ways to spread deradicalization through humanitarian-based approaches. We must stand and work together to fight the evils of terrorism.”
In Australia, prime minister Anthony Albanese took part in a tribute to the victims in the seaside Sydney suburb of Coogee, where six of those killed played in the local Coogee Dolphins football team.
“Twenty years ago, the shock waves from Bali reached our shores. Twenty years ago, an act of malice and calculated depravity robbed the world of two hundred and two lives… Twenty years on, the ache does not dim,” Albanese said in a speech to mark the largest loss of life of Australians in an act terrorism.
“We think of those who survived, and those who helped — what they saw that night will never leave them.”
Across Australia, including at Parliament House in Canberra, senior officials, politicians, diplomats and citizens gathered to remember the victims and lay wreaths.
“For many people, this event is still incredibly raw,” Indonesia Institute founder Ross Taylor said in Perth, according to public broadcaster ABC. “The 20th anniversary is a very poignant time for families of those [who died].”
The bombings were carried out by Jemaah Islamiyah, an Islamic terrorist group aligned with al-Qaeda.
Authorities arrested some 30 people involved in the attacks, but the main perpetrators, Indonesians Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Ali Ghufron, were arrested that same year and executed in November 2008.
Last year, Indonesia released the elderly radical cleric and alleged mastermind of the bombings, Abu Bakar Bashir, after he completed a prison sentence for his links to militant training camps.
In August this year, the sentence of bomb-maker Umar Patek, who is serving 20 years, was reduced by another five months, taking his total reductions to almost two years. EFE