Indonesia on high alert over Christmas and New Year

Indonesian navy Seals in civilian clothes standing to during an anti-terror drill in Jakarta on Dec 20, 2015.
Indonesian navy Seals in civilian clothes standing to during an anti-terror drill in Jakarta on Dec 20, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

JAKARTA (JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK - The Indonesian authorities will be on high alert over the festive season in Jakarta.

After the arrests of at least five militants linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terror group (ISIS) who were apparently planning to attack during the festive season, the Indonesian security forces are taking no chances.

Jakarta police chief Tito Karnavian said the city police will deploy 28,000 security officers to secure Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations in the capital city on the back of the recent arrests of the suspected terrorists.

"We will get additional personnel from the National Police and the Jakarta administration," said Inspector-General Tito in Jakarta on Monday as reported by tempo.co, adding that during Christmas, the police would deploy 8,000 security personnel and 20,000 on New Year's Eve.

Mr Tito said the police would give priority to nine places at Christmas: two in Jakarta and the remaining in Tangerang and Bekasi. He declined to name the nine places.

National Police spokesman Anton Charliyan told Australian newspaper The Age that the police had identified 13 areas vulnerable to attack, including Bali, Jakarta, Papua, North Sumatra, east Nusa Tenggara, Maluku and parts of Sulawesi.

This festive season is also notable as both Christians and Muslims in Indonesia will be celebrating.

"This Christmas is unique because on Dec 24, Muslims commemorate Prophet Muhammad's birth. So we'll be celebrating two religious holidays," Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama said on Monday (Dec 21).

The Jakarta Police and the Jakarta administration held a coordination meeting on Monday to make sure that Christmas and New Year's celebrations at City Hall would proceed smoothly.

Mr Tito said he had instructed subordinates to pay attention to areas where mosques and churches were located close to one another to make sure that there was no friction between followers of the different religions.

The National Police's counter-terrorism squad Densus 88 arrested nine suspected terrorists recently. They also seized bomb-making materials and manuals during the raids. The police said the alleged terrorists had intended to attack Shi'ite houses of worship in Pekalongan, Central Java; Bandung, West Java, and Pekanbaru, Riau.

The men were reportedly arrested in Central Java and West Java following intelligence tip-offs from the US Federal Bureau of Investigtaion and the Australian federal police, according to media reports.

Indonesia's weak security laws have prevented the authorities from arresting people who had gone to Syria to join the militants or had pledged allegiance to ISIS, but efforts are under way to tighten regulations to allow for more preventive measures.

Inspector-General Arief Dharmawan, deputy head of enforcement at Indonesia's National Counter- Terrorism Agency (BNPT), said last month that 162 Indonesians had been deported, mostly from Turkey, as they were about to cross into Syria.

Among them were 40 male adults, classified as men of fighting age, who have since been released back in their home towns.

Indonesia is also facing a big challenge in monitoring former terrorists who have finished serving jail time. There are today 598 former terrorist inmates in the country and 212 terrorist inmates, according to data from BNPT.