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Operation Alliance

2002 Bali Bombings

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For many Australians, 12 October 2002, will be forever remembered as the date that terrorism darkened Australia's doorstep.

When 3 separate explosions rocked the popular tourist destination of Bali, Australians understood for the first time just how close and real the prospect of a terrorist attack was.

For the AFP, these events would evolve the agency literally overnight. We worked quickly to assemble expert investigative and forensic teams, as well as victim identification, media and family liaison units. Critically, we were able to form alliances with police jurisdictions around the country and perhaps, most importantly, with the Indonesian National Police. In doing so, we began one of the most significant operations in our history. Read more on our involvement in this catastrophic event and our role in disaster victim identification.

Registration for Bali 2002 and Jakarta JW-Marriott 2003 survivors and victims’ next of kin

We are coordinating contact between Australian survivors, the bereaved next of kin of victims, and US authorities that were impacted by 2002 Bali bombings and 2003 Jakarta Marriott bombing. Register your interest

Series trailer

Read the series trailer transcript

Ray Martin: For many Australians, the 12th of October 2002 will be forever remembered as the date that terrorism darkened Australia's doorstep…

Frank Morgan: And it was just as I got back to the hotel, literally walked back into my room, when you heard the, the explosions, the… the noise of the bombs going off.

Glen McEwen: And all of a sudden, the lights went out. There was a loud boom, and the lights went out.

Ray Martin: Three separate explosions had rocked the popular tourist destination of Bali…

Sarah Benson: And I remember the phone, the phone ringing in the lab, which was unusual for a Sunday. And then the phone calls just kept going.

Mark Laing: I got up on Sunday morning to multitude of text messages and voice messages all concerning some of our colleagues that were actually in the Sari Club and had been victims of the bombing.

Nathan Green: It was one of those times where you just had a feeling that yesterday was no longer the same, it's changed, that something had fundamentally shifted in the world, that this was one of the first times that Australians were deliberately targeted offshore.

Ray Martin: I'm Ray Martin… and Operation Alliance: the 2002 Bali Bombings is an historic 4-part series that will take you inside the search for justice and the investigation by the Australian Federal Police and their Indonesian counterparts.

Graham Ashton: You know, the Indonesian forensic scientists, they're well-qualified people, and they had a lot of bombings on a regular basis at that time in Indonesia, you know, they weren't strangers to bombings.

Ray Martin: You'll hear first-hand accounts from those officers who helped the injured…

Frank Morgan: There was a guy driving past down the laneway in front of the hotel in a ute, so I basically commandeered his ute, put Tim in it, and as many injured people as I could and just said, "Get me to a hospital, get me somewhere, a medical centre".

Ray Martin: To forensic experts involved in the hunt for clues…

Annie Lam: We put a little heater in there and we made a super glue tent, and we found that to be successful. And then we developed fingerprints.

David Royds: Most people were looking at the floor, looked up, saw that ceiling, and it's almost impossible to ignore what was up there.

Ray Martin: And also, those helping the families of the victims.

Karl Kent: I think those of us that had to deal with that found that the most confronting. Feeling that loss first from the family members and then relating that to what was being done in the field.

Ray Martin: Operation Alliance is a story of extraordinary teamwork…

Ben McDevitt: For every person on the ground in Bali, there were at least 10 people back in Australia working to support those individuals, to supply them with the logistics, to enable them to operate safely you know in a foreign country and be able to support them.

Ray Martin: And a story that's shaped the AFP - and the men and women within it - like no other event in our history.

Graham Ashton: To be part of that and being able to capture those responsible and provide at least some, some outcome for families who had been through so much, felt very rewarding. But at the time, you felt like you were part of something significant, something historic, as to what was happening in terms of Australia's history.

Reece Kershaw: I think as a police officer first and a commissioner second, we did everything we could for the families and for those victims, and, and I believe we did bring those responsible to justice. But it's never ending, and we'll never give up and we'll never stop.

Ray Martin: Operation Alliance: the 2002 Bali Bombings – incredible first-hand stories from inside the AFP. Episode 1 is available to download from September 21 wherever you get your podcasts.

How it unfolded in the first 2 weeks

Week 1: 12 - 19 October 2002

Saturday 12 October: Local Bali time (Sunday 13 October 1.08 am)

11.08 pm (AEST):

  • Bomb explodes at Paddy’s Bar in Kuta, Bali, followed a short time later by a second blast at the nearby Sari Club. About 45 to 60 seconds later, a third bomb explodes near the US Consulate in the Denpasar suburb of Renon.
  • The incident triggers Australian government response, led by DFAT with the AFP taking a leading role from the outset. It will involve thousands of Commonwealth public servants, federal and state police, defence force personnel and volunteers.

Sunday 13 October (all AEST)

2 am:

  • Several members of the public contact AFP’s National Assessments Centre (NAC) with information about an explosion in a hotel or nightclub in Bali.
  • Each caller states contact from a friend or relative in Bali. Some callers report massive confusion and casualties. Callers referred to DFAT Consular Operations to obtain latest information and assistance.

2.15 am: Australian Consulate General, Bali receives reports of bomb blast – he seeks to confirm reports.

2.39 am: Federal Agent Glen MCEWEN phones AFP Headquarters from Bali.

  • He says he and Federal Agent Mick KELSEY are in Bali, that there has been an explosion and they are enroute to investigate. A short time later, Federal Agent MCEWEN reports the extent of damage at the blast site.
  • He describes seeing burning buildings, burning motor vehicles with occupants still inside and a relatively large crater in the street outside the Sari Club. He reports chaos, with people running from the scene and emergency services attempting to extinguish fires.
  • He advises Australian and other foreign tourists heavily frequent Paddy’s Bar and the Sari Club. Due to the damage he can see, he expects Australian casualties will be significant.

3- 3.30 am: All appropriate agencies are advised by the AFP after 2 Federal Agents at the scene officially confirm reports of explosions in Bali.

4.13 am: Federal Agent Jeff CALDWELL calls to advise at least 5 AFP personnel are on leave in Bali.

  • Federal Agents Frank MORGAN, Tim FISHER and Nicolle HAIGH are amongst those known to be on leave from their UN Contingent, Timor Leste. FISHER is injured (serious but not life threatening). HAIGH is missing.

5 am: Protective Security Coordination Centre (PSCC) Watch Office staff begin to gather information about incident.

  • DFAT established as the lead Commonwealth agency with AFP, Australian Defence Force and ASIO having principal roles.
  • DFAT Crisis Centre activated to coordinate information flows to relevant government agencies, and the whole-of-government response.

6.30 am: Incident Coordination Centre (ICC) is set up and operating at AFP Headquarters.

7 am: AFP Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, General Manager International, General Manager National Operations and others convene at AFP Headquarters to formulate an initial AFP plan.

  • Throughout the morning, AFP Headquarters is in contact with Police General Chief, Da’i BACHTIAR of the Indonesian National Police to offer assistance. He indicates AFP assistance would be welcome.

9 am: AFP attend DFAT Crisis Centre meeting.

11.49 am: Commissioner Mick KEELTY circulates All-Staff email message

  • It confirms the bombings in Bali and urges patience and calm while the fate of colleagues remains unknown. He advises that Federal Agent Graham ASHTON will lead the joint team heading to Bali as soon as Indonesia confirms the scope of assistance required.
  • Federal Agent Tim MORRIS is to head a joint AFP-ASIO investigation team located in Canberra.
  • The AFP’s PROMIS case is created.

11.50 am: Visiting Indonesian official formally requests Australian assistance – specifically AFP and ASIO.

12 pm: Meeting of the Commonwealth’s Special Incident Task Force (SITF) called for 3.30 pm in Canberra.

12.30 pm: National Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) commander contacts AFP offering assistance.

  • Commissioner KEELTY contacts state and territory police commissioners to ensure coordination of the national/international law enforcement response.
  • AFP announces joint investigation team from ASIO and AFP is on its way to Bali to assist Indonesian Police. Team includes forensic and investigative officers, and experts in disaster victim identification and bomb-blast investigation.

3.35 pm: AFP receives first call from possible witness.

4 pm: AFP General Manager National Operations Ben McDEVITT briefs members of the AFP contingent being deployed to Bali.

4.05 pm: Situation report from Federal Agent McEWEN advises that forward command post has been established at SAMID RAYA HOTEL.

4.27 pm: Commissioner KEELTY releases second All-Staff message.

  • He reports that all AFP, state and territory police in Bali have been accounted for, although there are casualties – Federal Agent Nicolle HAIGH is the most seriously injured.

6.30 pm: RAAF Orion carrying AFP Initial Assessment Team and consular officials leaves for Bali.

  • AFP team includes disaster victim identification, forensic, investigation, intelligence and bomb-blast experts.

11 pm: First questionnaires handed to passengers departing Denpasar.

Monday 14 October ( all AEST)

Prime Minister Howard addresses House of Representatives.

  • He thanks all those agencies and people involved in the rescue and medical evacuation.
  • Announces AFP Commissioner KEELTY will go to Bali and Jakarta with ministers DOWNER (DFAT) and ELLISON (Justice) and ASIO head Dennis RICHARDSON.

2.30 am: First Hercules arrives in Darwin with evacuees

  • First commercial and charter flights begin to arrive in Australia with passengers interviewed by AFP personnel at all major airports – a massive logistical exercise.
  • Over the next two weeks, AFP will take statements from all passengers on 19 flights from Bali. In all, 7340 passenger questionnaires are completed, leading to 450 relevant leads.

7 am: AFP Forensic Major Incident Room (MIR) is operational in Canberra.

11.10 am: Guidelines issued for recording Bali-related entries on AFP database PROMIS

12.50 pm (Darwin time): injured Federal Agent Nicolle HAIGH arrives by air and transported to Darwin Hospital.

1.05 pm: Fourth Hercules arrives in Darwin with 12 evacuees

1.54 pm: Operations Management Centre advises the name of operation – ALLIANCE.

6.02 pm: Commissioner KEELTY releases third All-Staff update.

  • Advises at 12.30 am 15 October - two Australian Bomb Data Centre (ABDC) members, four investigators and four forensic members, together with five disaster victim identification experts from state and territory police will leave for Bali to supplement existing AFP/ASIO team already on the ground.
  • He announces his imminent departure for Bali with Ministers DOWNER and ELLISON.

Within 36 hours: all Australian injured have returned to Australia.

  • AFP is playing a frontline role in dealing with victims’ families with many traumatised by their loss, and frustrated at perceived delays in releasing bodies.

Within 48 hours: 5 refrigeration units have been despatched to Bali.

  • Priority task is DFAT and AFP’s active pursuit of negotiations with Indonesian authorities to improve conditions of local morgues and stabilise the remains of Australian victims.

Tuesday 15 October:

  • Four RAAF Hercules aircraft begin support for the Australian medical distribution plan of patients from Darwin throughout Australia.

1.03 pm AEST: AFP Commissioner’s All-Staff advises:

  • Federal Agent HAIGH has been moved to Brisbane and Federal Agent FISHER is back in Canberra receiving treatment on his injured hand.
  • Royal New Zealand Air Force Hercules departs Australia with 22 AFP officers – due in Bali at 8 am.

Wednesday 16 October:

  • AFP has 21 members in Bali assisting the investigation with a further 19 departing – 3 others to arrive tomorrow.
  • AFP calls for videos and photos from witnesses.

Thursday 17 October:

AFP has 25 disaster victim identification response members in Bali and will send another 18 specialists today.

Friday 18 October:

  • Commissioner KEELTY advises staff he has signed an MOU with Indonesian National Police to establish Joint Australia-Indonesia Police Investigative Team.
  • Four more AFP forensic staff arrive in Bali.
Week 2: 20 - 27 October 2002

Sunday 20 October:

  • National Day of Mourning.
  • PROMIS entries reach 20,000.
  • AFP reminds families of missing Australians to provide DNA samples (hair brushes, unwashed clothes, used razors, lipstick) to assist in victim identification process.

Monday 21 October:

  • Commissioner KEELTY says evidence suggests 2 devices used in Kuta. Says 400 AFP personnel working in Australia with colleagues from other Australian police jurisdictions. Another 109 Australian officers in Bali – more than 50 involved directly in victim identification.

Tuesday 22 October:

  • Commissioner KEELTY visits Forensics Major Incident Room in Canberra where experts are working around the clock to help identify victims.

Wednesday 23 October:

  • Emergency amendment to the Crimes Act passes the Senate, allowing CrimTrac DNA database system to be used for disaster victim identification.
  • Commissioner KEELTY issues another All-Staff update: announces major staff shuffle to cover Operation ALLIANCE. Says he is proud of the effort of staff in “a very difficult and complex environment” and encourages continued commitment.

Thursday 24 October:

  • 10 am AEST: National Memorial Service for Bali victims held at Parliament House.

Sunday 27 October:

  • PROMIS entries reach 30,000.
  • AFP announces forensic examination of crime scene is largely complete.

**Based on a list compiled by Verona Burgess, Public Service Reporter for the Canberra Times 2002 – amended to reflect AFP focus. Printed with the permission of the Canberra Times.

Operation Alliance: 2002 Bali Bombings

Episode 1: The Lights Went Out

Following three separate explosions in the tourist hotspot of Bali, the chaos on the streets on the night of October 12, 2002, was echoed in Australia as the AFP learned of the devastation and scrambled to assemble expert investigative and forensic teams, as well as victim identification, media and family liaison units to deploy to the crime scenes. In doing so, they began one of the most significant operations in AFP history.

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Episode 2: Looking For Clues

As a forensic investigator, when faced with the enormity of a crime scene like that in Kuta, 2002, where do you start looking for clues? The answer: in strange places. In the weeks and months following the bombings, Operation Alliance would bring together 500 personnel in Bali and more than 400 in Australia, among them Disaster Victim Identification experts, family liaison officers, and forensic investigators, who would all rely on their years of experience and some 'gut instinct' to find answers in the mayhem.

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Episode 3: Team Effort

The joint investigation into the 2002 Bali bombings was a significant turning point for the AFP. The organisation needed to evolve overnight, forming critical alliances with police jurisdictions around the country and most importantly, with the Indonesian National Police. The investigation was an extraordinary team effort, one of the largest collaborations ever witnessed by Australian law enforcement and one that would ultimately bring about results.

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Episode 4: Closing The Circle

Twenty years on from the terrible events in Bali, the victims will always be remembered. For the AFP, the families of the victims will never be forgotten, neither will the lessons learned from that time - lessons that have shaped the AFP into global leaders in counter terrorism, forensic science, disaster victim identification and family liaison. The men and women involved in Operation Alliance reflect on their lasting images of a history-defining period and how the AFP is working to help prevent the next phase in the evolution of terrorism.

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