Long considered Indonesia's safe haven, Bali has always been the
country's premier tourist destinationa world apart from the spells of
violence that plague the surrounding islands. The explosions that rocked
the Hindu island moments before midnight Saturday did more than kill
dozens and injure scores of innocent barhoppers, tourists and
nativesthey serve as a reminder that terrorists are not only
present but active throughout the country. The two bombsone placed on
Kuta's busiest nightlife thoroughfare and the other in Denpasar near the
U.S. consulateseemed targeted at foreigners.
As rescue workers made their way into Kuta's destroyed Sari Club, the
popular watering hole for vacationing Westerners that was the epicenter
of one blast, the full extent of the wreckage and casualties were just
coming clear; initial reports put the death toll at 3, then 15, then 28,
then 50 and then 182. On the scene, shaken witnesses blurted out
fragmentary descriptions: the crumpled remains of eight surrounding
buildings, four charred bodies in a parked car, the mangled heaps of two
vehicles that were flung 10 meters by the blast.
The explosion was clearly timed to mow down as many foreigners as
possible. Kuta is the nightlife capital of Bali, and Jalan Legian is its
main drag. Rows of bars, their street fronts open to Bali's warm night
air, form a bustling pub crawl route for legions of backpackers, surfers
and Australian tourists. And around 11pm, when the bomb
exploded, would have been the street's peak hour. Hundreds of revelers
and street vendors shilling Balinese handicrafts fill the avenue at
night. Sari Club, says a local, was one of the more exclusive: it only
admitted Westerners; locals weren't allowed.
The bomb was planted on the sidewalk in front of the Sari Club and tore
a three-meter-deep crater in the street. Some fifteen vehicles were damaged. Another bar two
doors down called Paddy's was also busy at the time and witnesses
say there must be bodies inside that club as well. On the scene the
thick smoke billows from the smouldering rubble, and rescue workers
cover their noses to the smell of burning corpses.
A young Australian barely made it out of the Sari Club alive. Reese
Schouse, dressed in a green short sleeved collared shirt and khaki
shorts, had been drinking beers inside with three friends. The Aussies,
all in their early twenties, were in Bali from Adelaide to play a rugby
exhibition match. Inside Sari Club, Schouse remembers hearing two blasts. At the
first, most people in the club grabbed their ears and ducked. But then
came a second, much stronger explosion that blew flames through the open
front entrance to the bar. Schouse and at least twelve other people
found a hole in the rubble and managed to get out of the bar just before the roof
collapsed. "I'm going to board the first flight to Australia tomorrow,"
he said, standing down the street from the smoking rubble.
On the scene, senior commissioner of Kuta police, Hermin Hidayat, said
the local security forces are on the move. "We have activated the whole
police force of Bali. All military troops in the area have been put on
It's not the high season in Bali, but, according to a Kuta hotel
employee named Ketut, this October has been unusually busy. There has
never been an attack like this in Bali, he explains. There have been
rare tribal disputes in the past, but nobody has ever targeted foreigners. A tragedy like this, explains Ketut, will be devastating for
the tourism industry in Bali and the rest of Indonesia. "We are going
into bankrupcy," said Ketut. For Indonesian President Megawati
Sukarnoputri, already facing criticism for not pulling her weight in the
war on terror, the attacks reveal the horrible human cost of delaying a
crackdown on domestic terrorism.