Monday, October 03, 2005
he young boy's cries seemed to voice everyone's feelings amid the crowded chaos in the emergency ward of Sanglah Hospital, in Bali's capital Denpasar. As his father tried to hold him still on the treatment table, and nurses seemed to be working on his back, a large gash across the top of his head was visible and newly stitched up. I wondered how such a young boy, he looked about 5 years old, could have remembered what was on everyone's mind -- the horrific terrorist bombing attacks in Bali almost exactly three years ago. But it wasn't that. He was rebelling against the nurses who were attempting to give him an injection, I presume a tetanus shot. He and his family had been seen earlier on MetroTV's coverage of Saturday night's attacks, in amateur video taken in the mayhem of Kuta's main street just minutes after the blast in R. Aja's Restaurant. They were not locals but an English-speaking Chinese family, tourists most likely either from Singapore or Australia.
In what has already been dubbed by the Indonesian media as Bom Bali II, three bombs of high grade explosives (not six as earlier reported) were detonated in two locations (not three as earlier reported). At about 7:50 pm local time, two bombs exploded about half a minute apart amid crowded tables of seafood diners, on the sand of Jimbaran Beach. Simultaneously, one bomb blew apart the crowded second floor dining room of "R. Aja's Noodle, Snack and Steak House" at Kuta Square in the central Kuta business district. The blasts are now known to be the work of three suicide bombers.
When I heard the news at about 10:30 and tuned in MetroTV, the presenter was discussing the situation with a studio guest, taking live accounts from their reporters in Bali, and showing an inset screen with a live feed from Bali TV channel. I changed over to Bali TV to get a better look. They were broadcasting the raw video from their several camera operators in various positions -- at Jimbaran Beach, in the street at Kuta Square, and inside the hospitals. A lot of very badly injured people were seen being treated and wheeled past on gurneys, both tourists and locals. Those who didn't make it were seen being carried through and out to the morgue. A few people, like a foreign lady whose husband looked very badly hurt, were being treated for more superficial wounds. These were certainly horrendous scenes, but the staffs of Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar and Graha Asih Hospital in Jimbaran seemed to be coping with the situation well.
Bali TV continued delivering these live video feeds without commentary until their sign-off shortly after midnight. Back on MetroTV, they had already begun acquiring amateur video which had been taken within minutes of the blast, of the street scene in downtown Kuta. The wounded were strewn everywhere with people giving first aid, and others trying to walk out to get help, still streaming with blood. There was a very poor quality video taken at Jimbaran Beach, very jumpy and out of focus but showing the atmosphere at the time of the blast. The camera had caught view of the first explosion and the screams and panic that followed, but switched off before the second blast. Yesterday afternoon Metro aired another video shot by someone inside R. Aja's Restaurant, which some readers may have seen on foreign news by now. The video shows a young man in a black t-shirt walking away from the camera, a backpack carried in his right hand. As the cameraman walks through the restaurant (not an empty table, by the looks of it), black shirt gets momentarily out of view but then turns left and walks across the camera's view again, this time he has swung the backpack over his right shoulder. The camera moves past him again, then swings back to the left just in time to catch the explosion at the side of the frame. We have seen an Indonesian suicide bomber.
Bali Regional Police Chief I Made (phon: Ee Mah-Deh) Mangku Pastika last night gave a press conference confirming that the bombings were suicide attacks. MetroTV now has their website operational, and it also has video clips available. Here is the story on the chief's press conference (title translates as "Bom Bali II confirmed as suicide action") -- if you click the tiny video camera next to the headline, it will play video in a small pop up window (Real Player format). I would recommend opening the videos from this site in the standalone player (hover the cursor over the embedded video, two buttons then appear in the corner, choose "Play in Real Player"), the image looks better when not stretched. For those who choose to watch this: Warning! The heads of the three bombers have been retrieved intact, and photographs are displayed here for the purpose of the public's help in identifying them.
There is included in this clip, a short segment of the restaurant bombing video, but at this size you won't see much. On the tv, you can see the bomber quite clearly -- just a very ordinary looking young fellow. A bit later, Chief Mangku Pastika is giving his reasons for concluding suicide bombers, and it's a gruesome bit of forensics lesson. Firstly, he says, at all three sites we recovered the heads separated from their bodies, bodies which were obliterated into tiny bits and distributed everywhere. Feet were also found separately, everything else was obliterated. The bombers' heads were thrown a long distance, particularly one of the Jimbaran bombs -- the head flew for 25 meters. This shows that the bombs were carried on the bombers' bodies, either inside a jacket or in backpacks, he says.
With nothing left of them but heads, feet and a couple of hands, it's quite amazing to see how intact their faces are. Basically everyone who came out of that restaurant seemed to have facial lacerations to some extent -- some quite badly. The bombs had been packed with ball bearings also. And yet the bombers' faces are in perfect condition, which hopefully means they will be quickly identified, and thus lead investigators to the rest of their gang. Chief Mangku Pastika was accorded a lot of credit for the swift work three years ago which broke up two separate gangs which carried out the Oct. 12, 2002 bombings. Let us wish them success in quickly tracking the planners and bomb makers of this atrocity, hopefully to include the two Malaysians who have evaded them until now -- the "Mad Doctor" Azahari bin Husin and his sidekick Noordin Mohammed Top. These two are believed to have masterminded the 2003 bombing of Jakarta's Marriott Hotel as well as the 2004 bombing at the Austalian embassy.
Bali is in real trouble now. Its tourism industry had just about reached full recovery after the first attacks. I was last there in 2003, it was very quiet then. We had dinner one night on Jimbaran Beach -- there were only a very few customers. On Saturday night, it was packed. Most Balinese people rely, directly or indirectly, on the tourist industry for their livelihood. After this second attack, it may be much more difficult for the island to recover. The Australian market is important to them, and after the first terrorist attacks I was impressed by the sentiments of many stalwart Australians who vowed not to be scared off, stating they would take their holidays again in Bali as a form of solidarity with the good people of that island. The island which long ago gained the affectionate title, "Morning of the World."
That's one thing we can all do to fight terrorism: simply to not be terrorised. To live our lives in defiance of them, to continue to support those who have been attacked and deny the freaks any measure of success. They clearly want to destroy Bali's economy once and for all. Whether that is a desired side effect from the prime motive of simply killing some westerners (and the probable vile calculation that if they also kill Indonesians, they're more likely to be Hindu Balinese -- in other words Indonesian kafirs or infidels), or whether crippling Bali itself is the main goal, makes no difference. We have to stand together, always and everywhere, to deny this nihilistic ideology any measure of satisfaction. That applies equally to Bali, and to the long suffering people of Thailand's deep south, as it does to the freedom loving people of Iraq who will vote next week on ratification of their new, democratic constitution. Surrender will never be an option. Turning our backs on our brothers and sisters, wherever they are, is not an option. Solidarity in resistance is the only honourable choice, however difficult and dangerous that may be.