by Andreas Harsono
(AR) JAKARTA --
bomb blasts that killed 216 people, most of them foreign tourists in Bali, were a wake-up call for many Indonesians who may have been slow to recognize that terrorists pose a real and deadly threat in the world's largest Muslim country.
In an impromptu press conference on Sunday held in her Jakarta residence, President Megawati Sukarnoputri called the Bali bomb blast "an act of terrorism," saying that she was going to fly to Bali to direct emergency operations herself.
Indonesian officials, including Vice President Hamzah Haz, have in the past denied that Muslim militants linked to the Al Qaeda terrorist network are active in their country. Authorities in Malaysia and Singapore said that members of a regional group known as Jemaah Islamiyah -- which is allegedly seeking to set up Islamic states in Southeast Asia -- are based in Indonesia.
Bali is Indonesia's premier resort island. Many of the victims were foreigners on holiday on the tourist island, which is especially popular with British, Australia, Japanese, French and German citizens. Indonesians were also among the victims.
Bali itself has remained quiet although ethnic and religious violence as well as terror bombings have wracked Indonesia since the overthrow of dictator Suharto in May 1998. Bali is a predominantly Hindu area.
The two blasts in Bali came just hours after a small handmade bomb exploded in front of the Philippine consulate in the city of Manado, a port city and a transit point to the southern Philippines, close to where the Islamic militant Abu Sayyaf group is active.
Two years ago, a blast in front of the Philippine embassy in Jakarta killed two people and injured dozens, including the Philippine ambassador.
An AFP photo showed the site of the blast was about six stories tall. Many of the victims were foreigners on holiday on the tourist island, which is especially popular with British, Australia, Japanese, French and German citizens. Indonesians were also among the victims.
British tourist Matt Noyce, who was inside a bar in Kuta beach, told the British Broadcasting Corporation that the blast had taken place about midnight. "Basically there was just a massive explosion. You didn't really realize it was an explosion to start with. You just saw a blinding light and your ears felt like they were exploding."
"There was just complete panic in the bar -- lot of people diving for the door trying to scramble over each other."
Outside it was fairly dark and there were bodies everywhere. "Some people were really badly injured. Lots of blood everywhere, people with burns. Some people with limbs that just, well, just terrible, terrible injuries."
"The streets were really clogged with people, those people who had made it out of the bar and people who were wounded. It was quite a while before any kind of help came. Fires started to spring up after the explosion and I saw one fire engine arrive quite a bit later."
"The whole place was in chaos because it was a really busy Saturday night. So it was a horrible sight."
October 15 2002 (http://albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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