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Indonesian churches and cops beef up security JAKARTA - Around 150,000 police officers, about two-thirds of the total force, will be deployed in Indonesia to thwart possible terrorist strikes against churches during the Christmas season. At the same time, Christian communities from around the country are stepping up their own vigilance following warnings of possible attacks by Al-Qaeda and its Muslim militant associates during the year-end festive season.
Indonesia's top policeman, General Da'i Bachtiar, said Operation Candle would 'focus on anticipating all kinds of threats to security'. Bomb squads would be placed on 'especially high alert', said senior police officials. Generally, police would be patrolling and manning posts outside churches, shopping centres and other strategic locations during the festive season.
In hotspots such as Palu in Central Sulawesi, where sectarian conflicts have taken place recently, a joint force made up of police and soldiers will secure Christmas services. But churches and Christian communities are taking their own initiatives in preparing for the coming holidays.
Some, like Jakarta's 184-year-old All Saints Anglican Church, the oldest foreign- denomination congregation in the capital, say parking will not be allowed near its compound. Worshippers are told to attend services 'only if they are feeling comfortable'. Vicar Andrew Lake of All Saints said: 'From our perspective, we have had to deal with security issues since 1998. We are a community with a fairly high degree of anxiety and have had to live at a high level of vigilance.'
There will be bag checks at the door and the police, he said, had been 'very cooperative'. Other Christian communities are going further. In the East Java capital of Surabaya, for instance, the Bethany Church will work together with youth wings of Muslim organisations to help boost arrangements already made by the police. A senior member of that congregation said that Nahdlatul Ulama, the country's largest Muslim organisation, has agreed to assign members of its youth wing to help secure 'worship sessions'.
As many as 10,000 people are expected to attend Bethany's big Mass on Christmas Day, and the source said cooperation with Muslim groups is a key part of security. He said: 'It's not that we think the police won't do a good job. The idea is to engage with local groups, including Muslim ones, to project that security during this period is a common concern, not just one for the authorities or for Christians.' There is a high degree of wariness in Indonesia about the potential for attacks in the next few weeks.
People remember the carnage of the Christmas 2000 bombings, which killed 19 in various parts of the country. The United States Embassy also warned earlier this month of 'particularly high' potential for attacks and the 'increased volatility' during the holiday season.



Posted in Terrorism @ 24 December 2003 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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