Kuta Beach, Bali -- Balinese music sounds full of horror and evil spirits, enough to make babies cry. But Balinese people, perhaps more than any others in Asia, are renowned for their sweet, peaceful culture emphasizing a Hindu balance of all things in the material and spiritual world. That balance was shattered before midnight last Saturday, October 12, by a car bomb at the Sari Club, Asia's busiest tourist hub and one that didn't even allow Balinese to enter without a foreigner. Over 180 were killed and and 300 injured. The blast blew water out of bottles, tobacco out of cigarettes and human feet out of shoes.
For months, reports have linked radical Muslim groups such as Jemaah Islamiah and Laskar Jihad to al Qaeda. These armed fundamentalists have a history of attacking Christians on Lombok and the Moluccas Islands and raiding nightclubs where sex workers serve Westerners. Indonesian police, working with Australians and the U.S. FBI, report they've detained three suspects, including an ex-air force officer living in Bali, and found evidence of bomb-making chemicals such as RDX.
The tragedy threatens to kill the local economy, which is dependent on 2.5 million tourists who last year spent a billion U.S. dollars, says Peter Semone of the Pacific Asia Travel Association. Made, a clerk at the Hotel Prawita, says, "This is very bad for Bali. The tourists won't come for five years.'
The bombings could also inflame the delicate ethnic balance in a notoriously tribal country. Even the harmonious Hindu Balinese are known to condone anti-Islamic vigilantes. "A lot of rumours are going around,' says Rucina Ballinger, an American resident here who's volunteering at the Sanglaah Hospital. "My kids, who are Balinese, came home saying they heard that Americans must have done the bombing, because there were few Americans at the club.'
While hundreds of police search for clues in the dried blood and twisted steel, Michael Baldacchino hopes DNA from a hairbrush and lipstick will help identify his mother, Sylvia Dalais, who was enjoying hanging out with the Sari Club's tattooed ravers. He couldn't believe the news out of Bali, which he calls "almost an extension of Australia. She said, "For the price of a week in Byron Bay (Australia), I can spend a month in Bali.' We laughed about scattering her ashes in the waves at Kuta. I never knew it would come true.'
Despite the tragedy, Baldacchino says he wants peace, not revenge. "I'm not angry any more. I forgive them. They don't need to be tracked down. Just peace.' The Balinese, in a Balinese way, have their own solution. This weekend they'll hold "caru' ceremonies to "neutralize the spirits of chaos' and bring back the balance between humans and gods, humans and nature, and humans and humans.