Opinions split as executions of Bali bombers near

MYT 9:32:20 PM

TENGGULUN, Indonesia (Reuters) - Some see Indonesia's three Bali bombers as misguided militants, others consider them martyrs to a cause. Either way, the bombers have acquired celebrity status in local media in recent weeks.

(L-R) Imam Samudra talks with Mukhlas, also known as Ali Gufron, and Amrozi after Eid al-Fitr prayers marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Nusakambangan prison in Cilacap, Central Java in this October 1, 2008 file photo. (REUTERS/Supri)

The attorney general's office has said the three militants -- Imam Samudra, Mukhlas and Amrozi -- would be executed in early November for their role in the 2002 nightclub bombings on the resort island, in which 202 people died.

Foreign and domestic media have camped out at a port near the prison island where the bombers are being held, on watch for any sign the executions have taken place -- the sound of gunshots, or the sight of helicopters taking off from Nusakambangan island to carry the bombers' bodies to their hometowns for burial.

The sight of an ambulance, or of police trucks ferrying officers to and from the island, is enough to send the media into a frenzy. Every time officials from the prosecutor's office or relatives of the bombers come to the port, reporters dash through the pouring rain, hoping to get a comment or two.

Some reporters even rented a small boat to get a closer look at the island, usually a 20-minute trip by ferry. But their plan was foiled as police stopped the boat and sent them back to Cilacap on the main island of Java.

"I don't understand why the government hasn't executed them," said Effendi Choirie, a member of parliament from the Nation's Awakening Party (PKB), a party linked to Indonesia's biggest moderate Muslim group, Nahdlatul Ulama.

"They are murderers, and murderers must be murdered because they have tainted Islam," he said.

"Amrozi is just part of a small group of people who misunderstand Islam. If the government executes them, Indonesian Muslims are right behind the government."

Indonesia doesn't usually announce the exact date and time of executions, but Attorney General Hendarman Supandji has said these three could happen any time before Nov. 15.

Security has been tightened across Indonesia in the last few days. On Tuesday, police said they were investigating threats to assassinate President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and blow up the U.S. and Australian embassies in Jakarta if the Bali bombers were executed.

Despite the threats, national police spokesman Abubakar Nataprawira said everything remained "under control".

Hundreds of journalists have also gathered in Tenggulun village in east Java, where the family of brothers Amrozi and Mukhlas live.

Supporters of the bombers have also started to gather.

Dozens of followers of Ansharut Tauhid, a group led by firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, drove 175 km (110 miles) to Tenggulun on Tuesday and addressed bystanders.

"We will execute everyone involved in the execution of Amrozi and two others," cleric Mujazin Marzuki told the crowd, which responded with chants of "Allahu akbar", or God is greatest.

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