Threats of revenge as 3 executed for Bali bombings

JAKARTA -- Hours after the executions of three men for their roles in the Bali bombings of 2002, nearly a thousand Islamic radicals shouted "God is great" in Arabic and threatened revenge as the bodies of two of the men arrived in their hometown of Tenggulun in East Java on Sunday.
Ny Tid
Publisert: 10.11.2008

A similarly chaotic scene erupted in the West Java village of Serang, where heavily armed police officers struggled to restrain a raucous crowd as they carried the coffin of Imam Samudra, the third man executed for the bombings, which killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

A spokesman for the Indonesian attorney general said that Samudra, Amrozi Nurhasyim and Mukhlas, also known as Ali Ghufron, were executed early Sunday morning. Tied side by side to wooden posts, the bombers were simultaneously shot in the heart by marksman in an orange grove on a small prison island off central Java, officials said.

The executions brought an end to years of uncertainty about the fate of the three men, who were convicted in 2003 but whose deaths were put off many times because of government fears about a political or terrorist backlash.

Several hotels on the island of Java and the Australian Embassy received bomb threats Sunday, but police officials said no bombs had been found.

A lawyer for the militants, Achmad Michdan, said in an interview by telephone that supporters would demonstrate in the coming week against the executions, but that they were now focused on the funerals.

“We will definitely be holding demonstrations,” he said. “But right now we can only mourn our loss.”

Meanwhile, at the site of the bombings, victims’ families gathered to lay wreaths and pray for their loved ones.

The American and Australian embassies both received anonymous threats last week warning that they would be attacked if the executions were carried out. The Australian Embassy received another, similar threat Sunday.

Analysts, however, said a major attack was unlikely because the bombers’ group, Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional terrorist network linked to Al Qaeda, has been seriously weakened. Since the government began an intensive counterterrorism campaign after the bombings, it has killed or arrested most of the organization’s top leaders.

The bombers are the first Muslim extremists to be executed under new laws passed here in 2003 that impose the death penalty for terrorist attacks. Three Christian militants were executed in 2006 for their roles in instigating riots between Muslims and Christians on the island of Sulawesi.

The bombers, who had been the public face of Jemaah Islamiyah since their arrests in 2003, writing and preaching from prison, had publicly said that they were looking forward to their executions, which they expected would turn them into martyrs.

In a letter written several weeks ago and posted on a sympathetic Islamist Web site, Mukhlas, who like many other Indonesians has only one name, said he felt no remorse for the killings. “I am neither afraid of prison nor the death penalty,” he wrote. “I am not content with lenience or freedom. And I was not mournful when accused of killing people in the path of God, and at this moment I’d proclaim: ‘In the name of God, I have won.”‘

The Bali attacks, on Oct. 12, 2002, involved two major bombs: one set off inside a nightclub popular with Western tourists in the busy Kuta beach area and another in a truck outside a nearby club that killed dozens of people trying to escape. A third, smaller bomb exploded outside the American Consulate in Denpasar but caused no injuries.

Mukhlas had been the operational chief for Jemaah Islamiyah since 2001, according to police records, and he fought the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He recruited Amrozi, his younger brother, to help carry out the bombings. Another brother, Ali Imron, is serving a life sentence in the case.

Samudra, who was believed to have chosen the targets, has written that the attacks were to avenge the deaths of innocent Muslims at the hands of the West.