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Bali bombing victims search for closure 10 years on

A decade after suicide bombers brought carnage to Indonesia's resort island of Bali, survivors have returned to the scene for a commemoration service with many determined to finally banish memories of an atrocity that left 202 dead.

world Updated: Oct 11, 2012 15:31 IST

A decade after suicide bombers brought carnage to Indonesia's resort island of Bali, survivors have returned to the scene for a commemoration service with many determined to finally banish memories of an atrocity that left 202 dead.

Australian Peter Hughes, 52, suffered more than 50% burns after a bomber detonated a device in Paddy's Bar, forcing dazed survivors into the street where many were hit by a second explosion from a minivan parked on the opposite side of the road.

The blasts, which killed 164 foreigners including 88 Australians, changed Hughes's life forever. Burn scars creep across his limbs and face, a brutal testimony to the horrors of that night.

Australian Peter Hughes, a 2002 Bali bomb survivor, telling his story in the Petitenget tourist area, Bali. AFP

He spent two weeks in a coma and was declared dead three times before medics revived him -- a remarkable survival he attributes to a desire to live for his son, who has accompanied him to Bali for Friday's memorial service, which will be attended by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

"I was at Paddy's Bar with three of my mates. I was walking to the bar to pick up my Bintang beer when I heard the explosion and saw flames coming at me," he told AFP.

As he ran out off the blast, the second more powerful explosion outside the Sari Club knocked Hughes back along with a woman he had helped up off the floor, scorching his body with flames and showering him with glass and shrapnel.

Hughes has recounted the events of October 12, 2002, regularly, including during trials of several terror suspects in Indonesia, something he believes the courts welcomed because his scars tell a story beyond words.

But now Hughes is ready to put the past 10 years behind him.

"It hit me in the last six months that I just don't want to play a part of this anymore," he said.

"I've been watching 9/11 (memorials) intently every year, and when it came to 10 years, it seemed to be the major closure point.

"I watched a lot of people suffering, but I also saw a lot of people walking away, saying 'that's it'. And that's what I plan to do this year. Walk away and just concentrate on my private time."

While he is ready for a new chapter in his life, he has no interest in forgiving those who carried out Indonesia's deadliest terror attack.

"Three were sentenced to death, and frankly, I think they should all get the same."

For Sandra Thompson, 62, who lost her son Clint Nathan Thompson in the blasts, forgiveness is not the issue.

"God gave me the gift of mercy. My family could never understand that," she said.

Her son was in Bali with a team of rugby league players from Sydney's Coogee Dolphins football club, which lost six young men in the bombings.

But Thompson says she wants to end a decade of mourning, which she believes tore her marriage apart.

"I've been to two other memorials here in Bali, and this is my last one. I'll probably never come back to Bali again."

An armed Indonesian policeman surveys the scene of a bomb blast at a nightclub in Kuta on Indonesia's popular resort island of Bali in October 14, 2002. Reuters Photo

While much focus is put on the foreigners who died on October 12, 2002, 38 Indonesians also perished in the blasts.

The Balinese who depend on tourism for their livelihoods also suffered, with their businesses decimated in the years following the terror strike and another deadly bomb attack in 2005.

I Nyomankayana, 37, who was working in a money exchange window when the nightclub bombers struck, was put out of work as tourist numbers plummeted.

Although business has now rebounded with holidaymakers again flocking to the island's pristine shores, he remains furious with the bombers for ruining paradise.

"We've not felt safe in Bali since," he said.

'Bali bombings strengthened nation'
Indonesia's president said Thursday the "monstrous act of terror" in Bali 10 years ago failed to achieve its goal of fracturing the nation, ahead of an anniversary held under the shadow of a security threat.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's comments came as some 2,000 police and military personnel including snipers deployed across the island to ensure commemorations Friday pass peacefully after "credible information" of a threat to the ceremony.

Bali's deputy police chief I Ketut Untung Yoga Ana told AFP authorities were "ready to tackle any kind of terror threat during the commemoration event" which Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard will attend.

(From L-R) Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, Dulmatin, Imam Samudra, Umar Patek, Ali Imron and Ali Ghufron, who were convicted in 2002 Bali bombings. Dulmatin, the alleged mastermind was shot dead in a Jakarta police raid in 2010. AFP file photos


The bombings in the predominantly Muslim nation on October 12, 2002, by the al Qaeda-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah, opened an Asia front in the war on terrorism one year after the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Read more

Australians bore brunt of Bali bombings
When two bombs tore through Bali's party strip in Indonesia 10 years ago Australians bore the brunt of an outrage that blew away any conception that they were immune from terrorist attacks.

Of the 21 nations whose citizens died in the tourist area of Kuta on October 12, 2002, Australia suffered by far the greatest loss with 88 lives wiped out.

The carnage was blamed on the al Qaeda-linked terror network Jemaah Islamiyah and it had the potential to seriously hurt ties between the two neighbouring countries - one predominately Muslim and the other mostly Christian.

But ultimately it achieved the opposite.

The two countries have since developed a multifaceted relationship, with burgeoning trade, investment, cultural and political links.

A girl attaches a picture of her friend to an Australian flag alongside other pictures of Australians who died during 2002 Bali bombing memorial monument, ahead of the 10-year anniversary of the incident in Kuta, Bali. Reuters Photo

Britten was on an end-of-season trip with his friends from Perth's Kingsley Football Club when a bomb ripped through the Sari Club as they sipped their drinks.

Seven of the Australian rules football team were killed and 13 survived.

"It was a moment of horror that had a profound effect on Australia as a nation and on the lives of survivors and the family and loved ones of those who died," Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.

"Forgetting would be the ultimate injustice -- and we will never forget." Read more