Security beefed up in Indonesia ahead of Independence Day

Police from the anti-terror squad participate in an anti-terror performance in Banda Aceh on July 10, 2017.
Police from the anti-terror squad participate in an anti-terror performance in Banda Aceh on July 10, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Security is being beefed up across Indonesia, particularly at places where crowds are expected to gather to mark the country's 72nd Independence Day on Thursday (Aug 17).

The Indonesian National Police have told officers on duty to be alert and to operate in pairs for safety reasons, said police spokesman Inspector-General Setyo Wasisto.

This comes after the police had in recent weeks picked up Internet chatter on the Telegram web messenger, about possible terrorists attacks targeted at the police on Aug 17.

"We prepare a similar security formation for each year, but because of the threats we discovered on social media, we will need to raise our vigilance," General Setyo told The Straits Times on Tuesday (Aug 15).

Indonesian counter-terrorism unit Densus 88 has also been rounding up terror suspects. Two suspects it picked up in Central Java on Sunday were allegedly involved in sending money and men to Muslim militants involved in the fight against Philippine troops in the city of Marawi, in south Philippines.

 

Indonesian police officers are often the target of attacks by Muslim extremist and other domestic terrorists who label them as thaghut, or an evil enemy of Islam. On May 23, three policemen were killed in a twin-suicide bombing in Kampung Melayu, East Jakarta.

Another officer in Medan was stabbed to death by two assailants on June 25, just as millions of Indonesians were about to celebrate Idul Fitri and mark the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Indonesia has been hit by a series of attacks since four men with ties to the Jemaah Ansharut Daulah terror network laid siege on downtown Jakarta in January 2016. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had claimed responsibility for this attack as well as the Kampung Melayu bombing.

General Setyo said Independence Day celebrations in Indonesia involve huge crowds, and there is a need to increase the number of personnel to secure crowded places.

"But each region is different," he added, without disclosing how many more people will be deployed. "What is clear is that terrorism is still the No. 1 threat, and that must be anticipated."

On Tuesday (Aug 15), the spokesman of the Indonesian armed forces, Major-General Wuryanto, said it will have a third of its troops standing by in various parts of the country.

"There is no special increase in troops," he added. " But there will still be troops that are ready to move, that's our usual procedure."

Major-General Wuryanto said he was aware of the threat of an attack against the government and police. "But that does not make us afraid, we remain alert, but to members of the community, please celebrate Aug 17 calmly and orderly."