Indonesia execution of Bali bombers sparks clashes

Reuters

Posted at Nov 09 2008 03:08 PM | Updated as of Nov 09 2008 11:08 PM

TENGGULUN, Indonesia - Thousands of people including some hardliners gathered for the funerals of three Indonesians executed on Sunday for the 2002 Bali bombings, sparking clashes between police and emotional supporters.

The three men from the militant group Jemaah Islamiah -- Imam Samudra, 38, Mukhlas, 48, and Amrozi, 46 -- were executed by firing squad on Nusakambangan island in central Java shortly after midnight, the attorney-general's office said.

The two explosions on Bali's Kuta strip on October 12, 2002 killed 202 people including 88 Australians and 38 Indonesians.

The bombers' bodies were flown from the prison by helicopter to their hometowns -- brothers Mukhlas and Amrozi to Tenggulun in Lamongan, East Java, and Imam Samudra to Serang in West Java.

"Looking at this, I feel sad, but then I am also proud that he is a Mujahid (Muslim fighter)," said Nuranda, a woman who came to offer her condolences to Imam Samudra's family.

About 3,000 people from West Java cities gathered amid tight security as Samudra's body was carried to a mosque for prayers, with some jostling to touch the body or help carry the bier.

Security has been tight in Indonesia and some analysts have said they feared a backlash if the executions went ahead.

Although there have been no major bomb attacks since 2005, Indonesia is considered still at risk.

In Tenggulun, thousands of militant Islamists from groups such as the Islamic Defenders' Front, some wearing white skull caps, had gathered, shadowed by armed police and many reporters.

The crowds included hardline Muslims chanting "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest). Some clashed with police as authorities tried to prevent them from getting too close to the bodies.

Controversial cleric

Among those in the streets were followers of controversial cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who was accused of co-founding regional militant group Jemaah Islamiah and jailed for conspiracy over the Bali bombings, but later cleared of wrongdoing.

Bashir was due to say prayers at the funeral.

In Serang, Imam Samudra's body was taken from his wife's home to a mosque. Some watching shook their fists in the air chanting "Allahu akbar" but others appeared to be just curious spectators.

Jemaah Islamiah said the Bali attacks were intended to deter foreigners as part of a drive to make Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, part of a larger Islamic caliphate.

In an interview with Reuters late last year, the militants said their only regret was that some Muslims were killed.

About a hundred Balinese, including some survivors, prayed at a memorial near the blast site in Kuta.

"Next time the government should be firm in handling the perpetrators of violence," said a survivor, Tumini. "It's been a long tiring wait."

Australian travel warning

Australia immediately issued a travel warning for citizens going to Indonesia and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith warned of possible reprisals. "It is not a day that fills us with any joy or any celebration," Smith said on Australian television.

"We continue to have credible information that terrorists may be planning attacks in Indonesia."

Smith said he personally felt "contempt" for the bombers' actions but Australia's official line remained that it opposed the death penalty.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said his thoughts were with the families of the victims. "Their lives remain shattered. They have been changed fundamentally by that murder," he told reporters.

Although new attacks targeting bars and tourist hangouts were possible, Jemaah Islamiah's network was fractured and sympathy for the bombers was low, said a leading Australian analyst.

"There will be some people in Indonesian society who regard them as martyrs, but they will be a very small proportion," said Damien Kingsbury, an associate professor at Deakin University.

"Jemaah Islamiyah is a significantly damaged organization and it is split. It is divided internally. Its willingness and capacity to carry out bomb attacks is much reduced," he told Reuters.

"There is a majority of the organization which continues to support jihad in the broader sense and wants Indonesia to become an Islamic state but don't support the bombing campaign. They think it has been counter-productive."

The Indonesian anti-terrorist unit, Detachment 88, was involved in a series of raids last year that authorities say rounded up the heads of JI and its military wing.

Police are still seeking Noordin Top, a Malaysian considered a main figure behind a series of bombings, including a second set of blasts in Bali in 2005 which killed more than 20 people.

The Balinese widow of a security officer killed in the first blasts said she hoped the executions would mark some closure.

"So, let the past be behind us and I hope there will not be any revenge from their families and supporters," said Wayan Rasmi. The body of her husband was never found after the blasts.TENGGULUN, Indonesia - Hundreds of hardline Muslims, some chanting "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest), gathered for the funerals of three Indonesian militants executed on Sunday for the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people.

The three men from the group Jemaah Islamiah -- Imam Samudra, 38, Mukhlas, 48, and Amrozi, 46 -- were executed by firing squad on Nusakambangan island in central Java shortly after midnight, a spokesman for the attorney-general's office said.

The two explosions on Bali's Kuta strip on October 12, 2002 -- one at Paddy's Bar and the other at the Sari Club -- killed 202 people including 88 Australians and 38 Indonesian citizens.

"They had to pay the ultimate price for what they did," Peter Hughes, who suffered severe burns in the attacks, told Australia's Channel Nine television. "These guys set about mass murder."

Georgia Lysaght, another Australian who lost her 33-year-old brother Scott in the attacks, told Reuters the executions would make little difference to how she felt.

"It isn't going to bring Scott back and it isn't going to change what happened," she said.

In an interview with Reuters late last year, the militants said their only regret was that some Muslims were killed.

The bombers' bodies were flown from the prison by helicopter to their respective home towns -- brothers Mukhlas and Amrozi to Tenggulun in Lamongan, east Java, and Imam Samudra to Serang in west Java.

Security has been tight in Indonesia and some analysts say they feared a hardline backlash if the executions went ahead.

In Tenggulun, hundreds of militant Islamists from groups such as the Islamic Defenders' Front, some wearing white skull caps, had gathered, shadowed by armed police and many reporters.

Some were followers of controversial cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who is accused of co-founding regional militant group Jemaah Islamiah and was jailed for conspiracy over the Bali bombings, but later cleared of wrongdoing.

A banner at the cemetery where the two men were due to be buried said: "Allah is greatest, welcome martyrs God willing."

Bashir was due to say prayers at the funeral.

In Serang, the body of Imam Samudra was taken from his wife's home to a mosque, where about 1,000 people thronged to see the body. Some shook their fists in the air chanting "Allahu akbar," although many appeared to be just curious spectators.

Jemaah Islamiah said the Bali attacks were intended to deter foreigners as part of a drive to make Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, part of a larger Islamic caliphate.

Although there have been no major bomb attacks since 2005, Indonesia is considered at risk.

Australian travel warning

Australia immediately issued a new travel warning for its citizens going to Indonesia and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith warned on Australian television of possible reprisals.

"It is not a day that fills us with any joy or any celebration," Smith said, adding: "We continue to have credible information that terrorists may be planning attacks in Indonesia."

Smith said he personally felt "contempt" for what the bombers did but said Australia's official line remained that it opposed the death penalty.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said his thoughts were with the families of the victims.

"Their lives remain shattered. They have been changed fundamentally by that murder," Rudd told reporters.

Although new attacks targeting bars and tourist hangouts were certainly possible, JI's network was fractured and sympathy for the bombers was low, said one leading Australian analyst.

"There will be some people in Indonesian society who regard them as martyrs, but they will be a very small proportion," said Damien Kingsbury, an associate professor at Deakin University.

The Indonesian anti-terrorist unit, Detachment 88, was involved in a series of raids last year that authorities say rounded up the heads of JI and its military wing.

Ten suspected militants were detained in July during raids in Sumatra and a large cache of explosives was seized.

In October, police said they had foiled a plan to attack a major oil storage facility in Jakarta.

Police are seeking Noordin Top, a Malaysian considered a main figure behind a series of bombings, including a second set of blasts in Bali in 2005 in which more than 20 people were killed.

The Balinese widow of a security officer killed at the Sari Club, said she hoped the executions would mark some closure.

"So, let the past be behind us and I hope there will not be any revenge from their families and supporters," said Wayan Rasmi. The body of her husband, I Made Sujana, was never found after the devastating blasts.