By John Lawler, A.P.M., Acting Deputy Commissioner, Australian Federal Police, Canberra, Australia
The Australian law enforcement response to the Bali nightclub bombings in October 2002 is one of the most significant operations ever undertaken by Australian law enforcement agencies. Led by the Australian Federal Police, the operation was a multijurisdictional response by Australian commonwealth, state, and territory law enforcement agencies. Australian state and territory police services played a major role in ensuring the response from Australia was comprehensive and coordinated. At the height of the investigation, approximately 500 Australian police members were deployed on matters relating to the bombings, with approximately 400 of these in Australia.
The multinational operation involved agencies from Indonesia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and New Zealand. As many as 10 countries have been represented as part of the forward command post; the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was a key partner and significant contributor throughout the investigation.
The response to the bombings required the involvement and coordination of several key police disciplines including investigation, intelligence, disaster victim identification (DVI) and specialty identification, forensic investigations, bomb data, and family liaison functions.
The Bali bombings represented a watershed in the relationship between the Indonesian National Police (INP) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP), culminating in the signing of a joint investigation agreement between the two organisations by INP General Da'i Bachtiar and AFP Commissioner Keelty on October 18, 2002. Earlier that year, a memorandum of understanding between Indonesia and Australia on combating transnational crime and developing police cooperation was signed by the INP and the AFP on behalf of Indonesia and Australia.
The primary focus of AFP involvement in the Bali bombings was on supporting the successful investigation by the INP. To date, 36 people have been arrested in relation to the Bali bombings, and 33 have been convicted.
With several suspects still at large, the INP and the AFP continue to work closely together in critical areas including intelligence, investigations, technical operations, and capacity building to bring all those responsible to justice. The AFP continues to commit resources to the investigation, with members deployed on a rotating basis in Indonesia, and members continuing related activities in Australia.
The success of the operation to date has demonstrated the INP's outstanding achievements, which was assisted by the immediate, comprehensive, and coordinated Australian law enforcement response. The Australian law enforcement response should be seen as a model for future responses in other countries. Using most policing disciplines, the Australian community can be well satisfied that every possible action was taken to ensure a comprehensive response to this tragedy.
This response was recognized by Australia's prime minister, John Howard, on November 26, 2002:
Can I also take the opportunity . . . in the presence of the commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, to say to you, Commissioner, on behalf of the entire nation, what a magnificent job your officers are doing in the investigation into the Bali atrocity. We read every day of developments.
. . . I want to express our gratitude. It is obvious that there's been fantastic cooperation between your officers and the officers of the state police forces under your leadership and the Indonesian police. We all hope that those responsible are brought to justice, and we're all deeply grateful for the superbly professional way in which your officers have gone about that work. And you have the respect and the gratitude of all of the Australian people.
The Australian Response
The AFP response to the crime was swift. By 2:00 a.m. on October 13, 2002, members of the public began contacting the AFP's National Assessment Center to report information about explosions in Bali. Within 40 minutes, two AFP liaison officers stationed in Indonesia (both of whom were already in Bali) were investigating the origins of the blasts.
During this process it was ascertained that at least two off-duty AFP members and a number of state and territory police officers from the United Nations Mission in Support of East Timor (UNMISET) were near the bombings at the time. And later it was discovered that two AFP members and a number of other state police officers were actually injured in the blasts.
By 6:30 a.m. on October 13, the AFP Incident Coordination Center (ICC) in Canberra had been activated, followed by major incident rooms (MIR) in each capital city. The AFP had a major role in the coordinated whole-of-government response headed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Later that morning, General Da'i Bachtiar of the INP accepted an offer of support from Commissioner Keelty, and the AFP operation formally commenced. An assessment team led by Federal Agent Graham Ashton, A.O., A.P.M.,1 the AFP general manager for southern operations, was identified and deployed. This team included investigators, intelligence, crime scene, and DVI experts. The team was transported directly from Canberra to Denpasar by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and joined other AFP officers already in Bali. Close liaison continued between the AFP and the ADF to move personnel and materials to Denpasar, enabling the AFP to provide a large-scale response to Bali very quickly.
The AFP members in Bali established a forward command post and commenced a massive operation to debrief the thousands of visitors expected to depart immediately from Denpasar Airport. This program successfully identified more than 7,300 people who were provided with a document to complete during the journey to Australia.
On arrival, teams of AFP and State and Territory police identified people with relevant knowledge and obtained witness statements and other critical evidence such as films and video footage. More than 600 witness statements were obtained from this process.
Hospital liaison teams were formed to track the location of critically injured victims through the Australian medical system. These people were able to provide investigators with important evidence and accounts of the events of October 12.
AFP involvement included the provision of a joint financial investigation team (FIT) and the AFP's high-tech crime team. These efforts have also been supported internationally with officers from the FBI, the German Bundeskriminalamt, and the Dutch National Police all joining the investigation team in Australia.
The Metropolitan Police Antiterrorist Branch has also provided considerable assistance, including sending investigators to Canberra to provide investigative support and advice to the operation.
A forensic MIR was established at the AFP laboratories in Canberra to coordinate the Australian forensic response to the bombings. In Bali, the AFP used mobile forensic capability to support the operation and established within the forward command post facilities for crime scene investigation, bomb-data analysis, post-blast analysis, chemical and physical enhancement, fingerprint comparison, digital imaging, and photograph production. These facilities provided invaluable preliminary results for investigators and significantly reduced turnaround time for results to be processed.
The forensic MIR was responsible for establishing on site the Interpol international protocol on disaster victim identification (DVI). This protocol provides a standard for body identification in mass casualty incidents and specifies a five-step process to ensure that identification is carried out in a systematic and comprehensive manner. This ensures that bodies are not identified on simple visual identification alone.
A major operation was then undertaken to identify all victims of the attacks. This involved conducting hundreds of postmortem examinations in Bali, in addition to many more antemortem collections in Indonesia and Australia. Pathologists, radiologists, and odontologists in the identification process supported the DVI teams. Many of the professionals came from private practice and the ADF. Close cooperation with DFAT and independent contractors ensured that the DVI process was completed on February 14, 2003.
An emergency amendment to the Crimes Act 1914, passed on October 23, 2002, enabled the use of Australia's CrimTrac systems to compare DNA samples obtained in Bali and Australia, which assisted in timely comparisons.
The forensic MIR coordinated the activities of more than 200 Australian Federal, State and Territory police and medical and coronial personnel in Bali; this does not include personnel who travelled to Bali independently. Many more were involved in supporting the DVI process in Australia.
The forensic teams examined 46 separate crime scenes across Bali and two other Indonesian islands, Java and Sulawesi, and conducted several examinations in Australia. More than 2,900 forensic exhibits and samples were obtained in this process.
A small ceremony took place in Bali on March 2, 2003, to commemorate the finalizing of the identification process. During this quiet ceremony, attended by AFP representatives, Balinese authorities cremated the last unidentified remains and the ashes scattered in the ocean.
With the support of forensic examination, the investigation progressed quickly. This led to the arrest by the INP of the first suspect, Amrozi bin Nurhasyim (Amrozi), on November 5, 2002, and the subsequent identification of other suspects. A second joint INP and AFP investigation team was formed to pursue the remaining suspects, which led to the arrest of Imam Samudra and a number of other suspects on 21 November 2002. This was followed by the arrests of Ali Ghufron (Muklas) on December 4, 2002, and Ali Imron on January 12, 2003.
The total number of persons arrested in association with the Bali bombings stands currently at 36. Of the 33 charged and convicted before the courts, three have been convicted and sentenced to death; three have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The remaining 26 have been convicted and received sentences of imprisonment ranging from three to 16 years.
Family Liaison Officers
To support the survivors, witnesses and families of the victims, the AFP introduced a Family Liaison Program. Based on the successful program run in the United Kingdom (U.K.), a number of AFP officers were trained using U.K. expertise.
The aim of the program is to establish and maintain effective communication with the survivors, witnesses and families of victims of serious crime where the AFP is involved in an investigative or coordinating capacity. Information sessions were conducted around Australia to communicate directly with survivors and families affected by the Bali bombings. Feedback from survivors and families who attended these sessions has been exceptionally favorable. Family liaison officers provided an avenue for the flow of information to the next of kin and seriously injured victims of the Bali bombings. This involved personal calls, group meetings, and a regular update via the AFP Web site during the course of the trials.
A number of family liaison officers were deployed to Bali to help the victims and next of kin who travelled to Bali to attend the trials. The officers ensured access to the court when required, explained the processes and conduct of the hearing (through dedicated interpreters) and provided assistance to the next of kin. The feedback on this program has been extremely positive, and the AFP plans to make the family liaison officer program a permanent feature of its counterterrorism training schedule.
As a result of the Bali bombings the AFP maintains a team based in Jakarta that provides analytical, technical, and investigative support to the INP investigations team tasked with apprehending the suspects who remain at large.
Marriott Terrorist Bombing
Soon the joint AFP/INP were searching for the perpetrators of the August 5, 2003, J. W. Marriott hotel bombing in Jakarta. This investigation has become part of the charter of the joint AFP-INP team. The team works closely with other foreign law enforcement representatives in Indonesia, particularly the FBI. The cooperation enjoyed between the AFP and FBI has proven to be a significant contributor to the Indonesian investigation.
About 12:45 p.m. on August 5, 2003, a bomb exploded outside the front foyer of the J. W. Marriott Hotel in the Menteng-Kuningan district of Jakarta. A Toyota Kijang entered the driveway of the hotel, stopped alongside the buffet restaurant, and exploded. A registration plate, believed to be that of the vehicle involved in the blast, was recovered. At the request of the Indonesian government, the AFP immediately committed 23 personnel to assist the INP with the investigation, including experts on bombs, forensics, and intelligence.
Investigations confirm that the explosion was the result of a suicide car bomber. The hotel sustained extensive damage; 12 people were killed and 143 injured. Three Australians are known to have been in the hotel at the time of the attack, one of whom was injured in the blast.
The INP identified one body as that of a known member of Jemaah Islamiyah. AFP Forensic Services was supplied with blood samples from the man's family to compare with DNA from the body recovered from the bombing, and found a match. Forensic investigations at the bombing site concluded on August 16, 2003.
On October 29, 2003, the INP made two further arrests in association with the Marriott bombing investigations. At the time of their apprehension, both suspects were found to be in possession of improvised explosive devices (IED).
Based on information currently available to the AFP from the INP there are approximately 13 people in custody in relation to the Marriott Bombing for varying degrees of involvement. At present, the AFP has eight officers working in Indonesia as part of the joint investigation.
The Bali bombing and Marriott Hotel investigations highlight the importance of strong partnerships between international law enforcement agencies and the long-term benefits of cooperation. It is also worth noting the importance of an integrated team approach using all available experience in forensics, investigations, media, family liaison, and operation support.■
1 Editor's Note: These acronyms refer to Australian awards: A.O.-Order of Australia and A.P.M.- Australian Police Medal.