Hundreds of survivors and relatives of the 202 people killed in the 2002 bombings on Bali have gathered for a commemoration ceremony on the 10th anniversary of the attack.
Security was tight with more than 2,000 police and military, including snipers, deployed to guard the memorial services on Friday after reports involving the “certain movement” of terrorists were announced two days earlier, raising the security alert to its highest level.
“The loss is not just giving us grief, it is also giving us the strength to fight terrorism and all other extremist activities,” said Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika, the former police chief who led the investigations following the attacks.
The twin bombings were Asia’s deadliest terror strike, killing 202 people – including 88 Australians and seven Americans – and injuring more than 240 others at the popular Sari Club and Paddy’s Pub in Kuta.
The attack, carried out by suicide bombers from the al-Qaeda-linked group Jemaah Islamiah, kick-started a wave of violence in the country hitting an embassy, hotels and restaurants.
Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from Bali, said it was a day of “indelible painful memories” for those attending the ceremony, but also a day on which many hoped to finally find some kind of closure.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard attended Friday’s event along with John Howard, who was Australian premier at the time of the attacks.
“On September 11, terrorists attacked the great symbols of American prestige. Here in Bali, they attacked our people and, through them, sought to overwhelm our values,” Gillard said. “Here on these bustling streets, they inflicted searing pain and grief that will never end. But even as the debris fell, it was obvious the attack on our sense of ourselves – as Australians, as human beings – had failed.”
Memorial services were also held across Australia on Friday to mark the anniversary.
In the capital, Canberra, dignitaries and family members of those killed gathered at Parliament House to mourn.
“Nothing can ease your burden. But our Australian spirit is strong. It is resilient. We have shown in ourselves that in times of tragedy we can come together and unite,” Quentin Bryce, Australian Governor General, told the tearful audience at the service.
Indonesia has won praise for its response to the bombings. All of the leading perpetrators have either been executed, killed by police or jailed.