Jakarta attack

Malaysia, Philippines step up security

Indonesian police securing the scene next to victims in body bags outside a traffic police outpost, after a series of explosions hit central Jakarta yesterday.
Indonesian police securing the scene next to victims in body bags outside a traffic police outpost, after a series of explosions hit central Jakarta yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Police in Malaysia on highest alert, while Manila security officials urge 'extra vigilance'

Malaysian police are on the highest alert after yesterday's bombings in Jakarta, and have increased security measures at public places such as shopping malls and tourist spots.

Extra precautions are also being taken at border checks to prevent infiltration by terrorist elements, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said in a statement.

Meanwhile, in Manila, Philippine security officials have asked people to be "extra vigilant" in the wake of the attacks in Jakarta.

In Malaysia, police have been stepping up preventive measures in recent months following other terror-related incidents around the globe, the police chief said.

"Those on our radar as being suspiciously related to terrorist activities will be monitored closely," Tan Sri Khalid said yesterday.

While Malaysia has yet to see any terror attacks since the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group gained global prominence in recent years, the authorities say they have foiled several local plots by terrorist cells that included targets such as Malaysia's administrative centre Putrajaya.

About 150 Malaysians suspected of having terrorist links were arrested in the past two years, while about 100 are believed to have joined ISIS in the Middle East.

At least 17 of these Malaysian recruits have been killed, among them six suicide bombers.

The government estimates that 50,000 Malaysians are ISIS sympathisers, and a Pew Research Centre report in November found that 12 per cent of Muslims in Malaysia view the militant group favourably.

In Manila, which has faced the Abu Sayyaf terrorist menace in the south of the country, security officials urged the public to be extra watchful.

"We appeal to the public to be extra vigilant and to help our security forces address the threat," said military spokesman Restituto Padilla.

Staff at Starbucks outlets across the Philippines, meanwhile, said their head office in Seattle had issued a memorandum advising them to take extra precautions. A Starbucks outlet in Jakarta was one of the places attacked yesterday.

The office of President Benigno Aquino urged the public to "exercise heightened vigilance in support of our security forces' concerted efforts to address the threats posed by terror elements".

Brigadier-General Padilla said the military and police "are well aware of the emerging threat and have been conducting operations to prevent terror acts anywhere in the country".

He said earlier that security forces were already taking "proactive measures" to prevent the spread of extremist ideology and activities.

But he dismissed as propaganda videos released by Muslim extremists in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia in recent weeks displaying their purported strength and intention to declare a South-east Asia "wilayat", or province, of ISIS.

Security experts had warned of "mass killings and attacks" as militants in the region campaign for ISIS recognition.

For more stories on the Jakarta attacks, please go here

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysia, Philippines step up security'. Print Edition | Subscribe