Operation Alliance: 2002 Bali Bombings

Operation Alliance: 2002 Bali Bombings

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

When three 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 Australian Federal Police, these events would evolve the organisation literally overnight, as they worked quickly to assemble expert investigative and forensic teams, as well as victim identification, media and family liaison units. Critically, they were able to form alliances with police jurisdictions around the country and perhaps, most importantly, with the Indonesian National Police. In doing so, they began one of the most significant operations in AFP history.


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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View transcript (series trailer)

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.

While the podcast pays tribute to Australia's policing response, the AFP's thoughts remain with the families who lost loved ones too soon.

View timeline: How we handled a crisis that shook the nation

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