Hundreds of mourners and survivors have commemorated the 20th anniversary of the bombings that killed more than 200 people on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.
Grieving families, attack survivors and representatives from several embassies attended a memorial in Bali’s popular tourist hub of Kuta on Wednesday, where an Al-Qaeda-linked group detonated bombs on October 12, 2002, resulting in Southeast Asia’s deadliest terror attack.
Most of the bombing victims were foreign holidaymakers from more than 20 countries but Australia suffered the biggest loss with 88 dead, followed by 38 Indonesian citizens and more than 20 people from the United Kingdom.
“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,” 47-year-old victim Thiolina Marpaung, one of the organisers of the memorial who was left with permanent eye injuries from the attack, told AFP.
“I don’t want them to be forgotten.”
Local group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which was linked to al-Qaeda, was blamed for the bombings, which took place at two popular night spots on the island and accounted for all the victims. Another device exploded harmlessly outside the United States consulate.
All the leading perpetrators of the Bali attacks were either executed, killed by police or jailed.
The Indonesian government is considering an early release for Bali bombmaker Umar Patek. He has only served half of his 20-year sentence.
Jakarta has held off freeing him after angering Australia and victims’ relatives who say his pending release has caused fresh trauma before they marked the anniversary.
At a ceremony at Australia’s Parliament House in the national capital Canberra on Wednesday, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong welcomed Indonesian Ambassador Siswo Pramono, who was among the dignitaries.
“Ambassador, on behalf of the Australian government, I warmly welcome you and acknowledge the strength, the courage and the cooperation of our two peoples,” Wong said in Bahasa, the official language of Indonesia.
“Today, we remember what was taken. Today, we remember what was lost. And we wonder what might have been had they all come home,” Wong added.
Pramono said the attack had created a “better and stronger bond” between Indonesia and Australia.
“Twenty years ago today, a hideous crime struck and it was one of the saddest days in Indonesian history,” Pramono told the gathering.
“Family and friends were left with overwhelming grief and even though a lot of hearts were broken and our loved ones were taken from us, there are some things that a terrorist couldn’t take: our love and compassion for others and the idea that people are equal in rights and freedoms,” Pramono added.