Indonesia steps up security for Easter

A police officer and his dog searching a church ahead of Easter celebrations in Surabaya, Java. Indonesia has intensified security at churches and other places this Easter weekend.
A police officer and his dog searching a church ahead of Easter celebrations in Surabaya, Java. Indonesia has intensified security at churches and other places this Easter weekend.PHOTO: REUTERS

Police out in force at churches amid fears of revenge attacks over terror-linked arrests

JAKARTA • Thousands of Indonesian police yesterday fanned out to safeguard Easter celebrations and manage the traffic gridlock that coincided with a three-day weekend.

Security was heightened at churches throughout Jakarta and other big cities amid the raised security alerts following January's terrorist attack in the capital city and this week's strikes in Brussels.

National police chief Badrodin Haiti has ordered the force to take measures in anticipation of possible revenge attacks in response to a series of arrests of alleged terrorists. The Kompas newspaper reported him urging all personnel to ensure peace and security as members of terrorist networks were certainly "unhappy about the arrest of several alleged terrorists".

In Jakarta, police deployed 4,900 personnel for the long weekend.

"This is actually a routine operation but (the intensity) will be increased," Jakarta police chief Moechgiyarto was quoted as saying by thejakartaglobe.com.

Last year, a planned joint Easter celebration was called off in a regency after security personnel refused to guarantee the event's security.

In Tangerang, west of Jakarta, police mounted extra security for the three biggest churches due to their large congregations.

In Yogyakarta city in central Java, police chief Erwin Triwanto said his office was providing security for a planned joint Easter celebration at a stadium, following complaints from the hardline Islamic People's Forum, which objected to the event.

Yogyakarta's reputation as a city of tolerance has taken a battering over the past few years from a series of incidents of intolerance, the Jakarta Post reported on Wednesday.

Last year, a planned joint Easter celebration was called off in a regency after security personnel refused to guarantee the event's security.

In 2012, former movie scriptwriter Pepi Fernando was jailed for, among other crimes, planning attacks on a church during Easter that were foiled by police.

On Christmas Eve in 2000, a series of bombs exploded at 11 churches across the country, killing 19 people and injuring around 100.

Police expected tens of thousands of Jakarta residents to drive out of the city towards Bandung for the long weekend from yesterday, and return tomorrow.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2016, with the headline 'Indonesia steps up security for Easter'. Print Edition | Subscribe