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Sunday, 13 October, 2002, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Bali: Tourist magnet unused to violence
Sanur beach Bali
The unspoilt beaches of Bali prove a lure for millions
Every year millions of tourists flock to the Indonesian island of Bali, lured by its lush green forests and unspoilt white sandy beaches.

Known as The Island of the Gods, it sits off the most easterly point of Java island and is home to a predominantly Hindu culture that has flourished in what is the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Dancers at the Sari Club, August 2000
The Sari Club has long been one of the popular places in Kuta
Tourism is the backbone of the island's economy, with Kuta, where the blast occurred, a holidaymaker's playground crammed with bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

Until now the island has been a peaceful haven that has been spared the bloody inter-ethnic and religious conflict that has wracked other provinces in the archipelago since the downfall of former President Suharto in 1998.

'Safe place'

Government officials have always insisted that Bali is a safe place to visit and in 2001 about 1.5 million tourists entered Indonesia at Bali's international airport, with many more travelling to the island from other parts of the country.

Bali
Indonesia's number one tourist spot
Population of 3m
95% Hindu
About 1.4m tourists visited in 2001

The majority of overseas visitors come from nearby Australia, with Kuta itself, home to the island's largest public beach, a popular haunt for surfers.

The Sari Club, which was at the centre of the blast is one of the most frequented clubs on the town's main street and is jam-packed with partying tourists on any given night.

Indonesia is 85% Muslim and while the vast majority of the population are moderates the country is home to a number of Muslim extremist groups.

In the past Indonesian officials have insisted that Bali was immune to attack by such Muslim radicals, citing the Hindu culture there.

But whoever is to blame for Saturday's devastating blast the fear that it will engender seems certain to spark a tourist exodus from what had been a holiday paradise.


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