10th anniversary of Bali bombings a reminder to be vigilant about terror attacks
The Bali bombings 10 years ago today shocked Hong Kong as much as the rest of Asia. Among the 202 victims were 11 city residents, most of them rugby players. Anniversaries are times to remember, and the lives of those taken by terrorists are being recalled. But the commemoration must be a reminder to governments that, although they have done much to fight the threat, it has not been eliminated.
At the time, governments were complacent about the possibility that the terror that jolted the US on September 11, 2001, could also strike Western targets in Asia. Many officials believed that warnings from the intelligence community were exaggerated. Unfortunately, too often it takes suffering for a threat to be taken seriously. The blasts that ripped through Paddy's bar and the Sari Club at Bali's Kuta Beach, claiming among those killed 88 Australians, 38 Indonesians, 24 Britons and seven Americans, were a painful wake-up call.
Governments were shocked into co-operating and co-ordinating security operations. Still, Indonesian police were unable to prevent another four major attacks on Western targets that took 45 more lives. Counter-terrorism squads have since captured or killed 800 Muslim extremists and those behind the Bali bombings were tracked down, put on trial and either executed or imprisoned. Jakarta has to be commended for its drive to counter terrorism. Despite the region's efforts, though, the threats remain as real - as made so plain by the high alert in place for today's memorial ceremony in Bali that will include Australia's prime minister and opposition leader.
Terror groups have been splintered and attacks are now less ambitious. Nonetheless, they could easily be reinvigorated with recruits from the Middle East, North Africa and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas, where the ideology of al-Qaeda and other terror groups remains rife. Governments are better prepared than a decade ago and more knowledgeable about extremism. But they cannot afford to be complacent. We are reminded today what can happen if guards are let down.