Australia issues terror alert for Indonesia

Members of an Indonesian anti-terrorism military squad taking part in a counter-terrorism exercise on Tuesday in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advised travellers to "exercise a high degree of caution in In
Members of an Indonesian anti-terrorism military squad taking part in a counter-terrorism exercise on Tuesday in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advised travellers to "exercise a high degree of caution in Indonesia" due to the "high threat of terrorist attack".PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Terrorists may be in the advanced stages of planning attacks, it says; Jakarta denies imminent threat

SYDNEY • Australia has warned that terrorists might be in the "advanced stages of preparing attacks" in Indonesia and advised travellers to take precautions, just days after issuing a similar warning about Malaysia.

"Recent indications suggest that terrorists may be in the advanced stages of preparing attacks in Indonesia," the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said in an updated travel advisory.

"We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Indonesia, including Jakarta, Bali and Lombok, due to the high threat of terrorist attack."

The advisory did not raise the overall threat level, which is at "exercise a high degree of caution".

It noted that the department continued to "receive information that indicates that terrorists may be planning attacks in Indonesia, which could take place anywhere, at any time".

The DFAT said travellers should be particularly careful when in places that have low levels of security and while at possible known terrorist targets, listing previous attack sites such as nightclubs, bars, cafes, restaurants, international hotels, airports and places of worship.

"The Indonesian government has recently increased security across Indonesia, which underscores the ongoing high threat of a terrorist attack," it added.

Responding to the Australian warning, Indonesia's national police denied that there is an imminent security threat, said a report on the jakartaglobe.com news site yesterday.

"As we can see, the whole of Indonesia is safe. People are free to do their activities without fear all across the country," national police spokesman Agus Rianto said. "We are working continuously with relevant institutions to maintain security."

Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said he has not received any information of increased threats from the Indonesian authorities, but stressed that his ministry received such security advice from the Australian government.

" 'Recent indications' and 'may be'. That is the level of certainty of the advice," Mr Arrmanatha said at a media briefing yesterday.

The DFAT had on Sunday warned of possible attacks in and around Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, and that these could be indiscriminate and may target Western interests or locations frequented by Westerners.

The British, New Zealand, Canadian and other diplomatic missions in Malaysia later filed notices advising against travel to coastal islands in the eastern state of Sabah.

Indonesian police last week arrested dozens of suspected Islamic extremists on Java Island, but it was not clear if they were linked to gun and suicide attacks in Jakarta last month that left four civilians and four assailants dead.

The Jakarta attacks were claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group, which has provided a potent new rallying cry for Islamic extremists in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim- majority country.

Indonesia suffered several major bomb attacks by Islamic radicals between 2000 and 2009, but a subsequent crackdown weakened the most dangerous networks.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2016, with the headline 'Australia issues terror alert for Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe