October 12, 2002: Terrorists bomb Bali nightclubs

On October 12, 2002 two powerful bombs exploded outside two clubs on the Indonesian island of Bali killing 202 people

BALI, INDONESIA – Every so often a terrorist attack on such a horrific scale takes place that changes a country’s perspective. This one did exactly that in Australia and Indonesia.

Over the past few years we have become used to events being referred to as _______ (nation name’s) 9/11. This of course is both accurate and not. Thankfully, we have not witnessed any single attack anywhere on the scale of what transpired in New York and Washington (and Shanksville, Pennsylvania) that day in 2001. And here is hoping we never do.

But some countries have experienced significant acts which, although lower on the casualty scale, are transformed into life-changing occurrences. Spain’s took place in 2004 (the Madrid bombings: nearly 200 dead and 1,600 wounded). The UK analog is the 7/7 underground/bus attacks (over 50 dead and 700 wounded). We in Canada have dodged that bullet, although a case can be made that the Air India bombings in 1985 fit that bill.

Would it not be nice if 9-11 could go back to its earlier meaning? (Photo: Phil Thomas on flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

On this day in 2002

Two countries, Indonesia and Australia unfortunately had their turn at this. Two powerful bombs, one suicide and one car-borne, exploded outside two clubs on the Indonesian island of Bali, popular with western tourists. Of the 202 people killed, 88 were Australian and 38 were Indonesian: in all people from at least 21 different countries were killed in the attack.

The Al Qaeda (AQ) linked Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group was responsible for the blasts. Their leader, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, was initially tied to the attacks, tried in 2005, convicted, jailed, released on appeal, re-arrested in 2011, and sentenced to 15 years in jail for supporting militant training in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province. He was released – again! – in January of this year (2021).

That doesn’t make it any easier for any Australian to accept that, ultimately. That those who are responsible for the murder of Australians would now be free.

Australian PM Scott Morrison

Whatever the case, the attack had a profound effect on Australians. They found themselves unwilling members of the ‘9/11 club‘. Here’s hoping others do not.

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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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