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09 Nov 2008 07:47
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.
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.
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 organisation 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 organisation 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. - Reuters
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