Sunday, December 24, 2006

Indonesian Christians and foreigners wait tensely as Christmas draws near

JAKARTA (AP): Tens of thousands of police were deployed at churches across Indonesia on Sunday amid warnings by Western nations that Islamic militants may be plotting Christmas bombings.

Indonesian officials downplayed the bulletins, which have become something of a tradition themselves since Christmas Eve bombings at churches across the world's most populous Muslim nation in 2000 killed 19 people.

The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta and Australia warned that the threat of an attack over the holiday season was "serious" and "credible" and that foreigners could be targeted, but did not say on what the alert was based on.

"The Australians and the Americans can say what they want, that is democracy," Indonesia's police spokesman Sr. Comr. I Ketut Untung Yoga Ana. "But up until now we have not seen any frightening signs."

Nevertheless, 18,000 officers had been deployed at churches in the capital, Jakarta and tens of thousands more will be on duty elsewhere in the sprawling nation, he said.

Bomb squad officers planned to search Jakarta's Dutch-era cathedral for bombs and Christmas Eve worshippers at major churches would be frisked before they entered, he said.

The United States and its regional ally, Australia, have long posted generic warnings that terrorists are plotting attacks in Indonesia, but they routinely issue fresh bulletins ahead of the holiday season.

The warnings are not based on intelligence of a specific threat, but rather reflect a general belief that attacks by Muslim extremists are more likely over Christmas.

Since then the 2000 bombings, militants from the Jamaah Islamiyah terror group have staged four major attacks, the most deadly being the October 2002 nightclub bombings that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists. The last attack was more than 14 months ago.

Indonesian officials do not like the terror warnings, saying they hurt the country's economy by frightening tourists and are unfair given the global nature of terrorism.

And tourists and ex-pats don't like getting bombed!! The reality is is that there are several major players in terrorism still not captured and responsible for acts of terrorism in Indonesia. JI master bombmaker and terrorism planner Noordin M Top is still at large and Adnan Arsal, Islamic militant and terrorism leader in Central Sulawesi and approximately 25 others associated with him are still uncaptured by police. Top has probably trained others to perform bombings and are just waiting for the go ahead.

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