It will shortly be 10 years since the terrorist atrocity visited on Bali that wiped out 202 lives and was followed by more attacks three years later. That terrorists have not struck since has somewhat lulled us into a sense that the threat has long since passed. But has it?
A report released this week by the International Crisis Group suggests the possibility of further terrorist attacks is as tangibly real as it was a decade ago, and that militants are finding new ways of planning, with many especially using the internet and its many chatrooms as a covert way to communicate.
The report, How Indonesian Extremists Regroup, warns that “there are signs that at least some are learning lessons from their mistakes and becoming more strategic in their thinking. The danger is not over.”
If the recent trials of convicted terrorists have told us anything, it is that they regret the loss of life – of Muslims. Umar Patek, who was found guilty in Jakarta last month of key involvement in the Bali bombings of 2002 and given 20 years’ jail, said he was unhappy about the October 12 attacks on two nightspots. “I was very sad and regret that the incident happened, because I was against it from the start. I never agreed with their methods,” the 45-year-old told the court.
Yet Patek was found guilty of making the bombs and indeed had earlier admitted his involvement in preparing the deadly ingredients. This tells us more about his playing to the judges, in the hopes of getting off or at least receiving a minor sentence, than it does about his actual beliefs, which by any measure must surely remain militant.
We know from intelligence assessments gleaned from arrested terror suspects that cells remain in operation around the country, in Java, Sumatra and elsewhere – including on the island of Sumbawa, east of Bali. Continued vigilance and ongoing security measures are therefore vital to us all.