Indonesia downplays Bali terror threat

Indonesian police have moved to ease fears of a terror threat to today's 10-year commemorations of Bali's nightclub bombings, after a top security alert was declared for the event that Australia's prime minister will attend.

Having cited "credible information" of terrorists plotting against today's ceremony at 1pm NZ time to mark a decade since bombs tore through two nightspots killing 202 people, mostly foreigners, Bali's deputy police chief played down the alert.

"The indication (of a terror threat) is still under the watch of the intelligence (service). What we need to do is to watch people in the venue," I Ketut Untung Yoga Ana said, adding that "so far, what we can say is that this is not a significant matter".

Some 2,000 police and military personnel including snipers were deployed to ensure Friday's commemorations pass peacefully, with truckloads of security forces seen entering the area where the service will start at 8:00 am (0000 GMT).

Bali military command spokesman Win Handoko said his forces were always on "the watch out" for attacks, but added "there is no significant threat and Bali is safe".

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard arrived late Thursday in Bali, where she is due to give an address to remember the 88 Australians who were among those killed in the strike against the Sari Club and Paddy's Bar on the tourist island's nightlife strip of Kuta on October 12, 2002.

Gillard reiterated her intention yesterday to attend the memorial despite the possible terror threat, saying "I want to be in Bali".

"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."

Mourners gathered at a memorial to the dead in Kuta, which is inscribed with the names of the victims, many laying flowers and shedding tears for loved ones.

Some expressed fears over attending today's ceremony following the terror alert, despite reassurances from security officials and pledges that everyone entering the service would be thoroughly screened.

But others said nothing would deter them from honouring their dead relatives.

Carmen Cachia, 72, from Melbourne, who lost her son Anthony in the blasts joined her husband Charlie in placing a heart-shaped wreath with her son's photo at the memorial, tears streaming down their faces.

"All the memories are coming back. Ten years is a long, long time, but I still can't believe he's gone," she said.

"We've been coming to Bali for the last 14 years, and we'll keep coming back every October. This is his place."

The bombings in the predominantly Muslim nation by the Al-Qaeda-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah opened an Asian front in the war on terrorism one year after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Indonesia has won praise for its response to the attacks - and others in 2005 when another suicide blast killed 20 people as they dined at Bali's beachfront Jimbaran district.

The resort's fortunes bounced back after a massive slump in tourist numbers following the attacks, while all of the leading Bali perpetrators have either been executed, killed by police or jailed.

The nation has not seen a major attack since 2009 when blasts at two five-star hotels in Jakarta killed nine, and more than 700 JI members have been killed or put behind bars.

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Indonesia's president said yesterday the "monstrous act of terror" in Bali 10 years ago failed to achieve its goal of fracturing the nation.

"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," Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said.

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

- AFP

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