January 1, 2004: Bombing at concert in Indonesia

On this day in 2004 nine people were killed and 32 injured when a bomb exploded during a New Year’s Eve music concert in Indonesia’s Aceh province

ACEH, INDONESIA – It is one thing to desire independence: it is something else to kill innocent people to gain it.

The need to feel in control of one’s destiny must be a universal thing among humans. After all, who wants to be in thrall to someone else’s bidding?

That sense of control extends to nations as well. Every group of people who identify themselves collectively as part of a polity – I am curious if we can even agree on what that means – wants to ensure that they are the ones making decisions and are not subject to the whims of another nation.

History is replete of course with many examples of peoples who have had to fight for their freedom. Whether through previous acts of invasion or other acts of violence outsiders have long exercised influence and dominance over others, seldom with the latter’s agreement. Hence the need to fight the oppressors to regain what one once had.

The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis
See what a war can achieve? (The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis oil on canvas by John Trumbull, completed in 1820. Photo: The Architect of the Capital)

So while no one would say that a people does not have the right to establish whatever nation it wants, there still are rules on how to go about it (I am now reading a fascinating new book on war by Canadian historian Margaret McMillan by the way). Simply stated, don’t attack civilians. Doing so makes your act potentially terrorist in nature.

Alas there are far too many instances where that is exactly what ensued.

On this day in 2004

Nine people were killed and 32 injured when a bomb exploded during a New Year’s Eve music concert in Indonesia’s Aceh province, long the site of independence yearnings.

The government blamed the Freeh Aceh Movement (known in Indonesian as the Gerekah Aceh Merdeka or GAM), which denied it was behind the attack. GAM has, however, been responsible for many such atrocities, and did fight Indonesian government forces from 1976 to 2005, during which over 15,000 lives are believed to have been lost.

It is hard to see the targeting of people at a concert as a legitimate target in one’s quest for independence. That is indeed an act of terrorism.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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