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Indonesian leader says Bali bombings strengthened nation

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang said today 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.

world Updated: Oct 11, 2012 14:13 IST

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang said on 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'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.

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.

More than 200 people died in the blasts on Bali's party strip, mostly Western tourists but also including 38 Indonesians.

Yudhoyono, who was security affairs minister at the time, said the atrocity only succeeded in drawing the country closer together.

"Whatever the motivation and calculation of the terrorists, the Bali bomb attack did not produce its desired effects," he said in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald.

"In fact, it resulted in just the opposite. Throughout Indonesia, Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Buddhists overwhelmingly condemned the attack and repudiated those who misused religion to carry out acts of violence.

"The entire nation galvanised to defend freedom, democracy and tolerance.

"And internationally, Indonesia became a key player in the fight against global terrorism. Indonesia also became an active proponent of interfaith co-operation," he added.

Some 88 Australians were among the Bali dead and Gillard reiterated her intention Thursday to attend the memorial despite the possible terror threat which prompted Indonesia to declare its top security alert.

"I am intending to go to Bali. I want to be in Bali," she said.

Gillard is due to give an address to remember the Australians who were among the victims of the strike against the Sari Club and Paddy's Bar on the tourist island's nightlife strip of Kuta.

"We would give everything to erase the events of that night, from the page of history," she said.

"But we cannot. We will carry the images of Bali on October 12, 2002, for the rest of our days. Its horror and its meaning are imprinted on all of our hearts forever. Tomorrow and always we will remember.'

Yudhoyono said the moment when the bombs went off would also be etched in the memories of Indonesians, and that they set off a series of chain reactions.

"The public debate over whether terrorism was a real or imagined threat to Indonesia was laid to rest," he said.

"We recognised that freedom, democracy and tolerance cannot be taken for granted. Our national security thinking evolved rapidly, and terrorism became public enemy number one."

Bali's fortunes, which are heavily reliant on tourism, have now recovered and Indonesia has won praise for its crackdown on militants that has left all the leading Bali perpetrators either executed, killed by police or jailed.

Yudhoyono said he had been determined "that those involved in the attack would pay for their monstrous act of terror".

"A decade after the Bali bomb, we can say with some relief that justice has been done," he said.

"Some of those in jail have expressed remorse and regret, and renounced the extremist ideology behind it.

"Others have collaborated to provide intelligence that led to the arrest of a succession of terrorist cells."

First Published: Oct 11, 2012 14:10 IST