Indonesia boosts Christmas security over potential terror threat

Indonesia boosts Christmas security over potential terror threat

Indonesia christmas security
Police secure a church in Surabaya, East Java province on Dec 23, 2016, as part of efforts to ensure a peaceful Christmas. (File photo: AFP/JUNI KRISWANTO)

JAKARTA: Muslim-majority Indonesia will deploy nearly 200,000 security personnel nationwide ahead of Christmas to guard against potential terror attacks, police said on Tuesday (Dec 17).

The Southeast Asian archipelago of 260 million has significant numbers of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists who have been targeted by radical Islamist groups.

On Tuesday, authorities said around 192,000 police and military personnel would be deployed to secure Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations across the country - including in easternmost Papua, a predominantly Christian region.

READ: Jokowi's new Cabinet shows commitment to fight extremism, improve education - analysts

The deployment, which comes after a recent spate of attacks, is more than the 167,000 personnel deployed last year.

"As many as 10,000 personnel will be deployed in Jakarta" alone, said National Police spokesman Argo Yuwono.

"Based on intelligence data, there are potential risks ... so we're taking preventive measures but we are also ready to take proactive action," he added.

Indonesia christmas security
Members of the Indonesian bomb squad conduct a final search at the Jakarta Cathedral on Dec 24, 2016. (File photo: AFP/Bay ISMOYO)

Many past attacks in Indonesia, which has dozens of groups loyal to Islamic State's violent ideology, have been against police and other state symbols.

Authorities routinely arrest suspected IS-linked militants ahead of alleged planned attacks.

In October Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered beefed-up security after two militants from an IS-linked terror group stabbed his chief security minister. He survived the assassination attempt.

READ: Indonesia arrests two dozen people after knife attack on security minister Wiranto

Last month a suicide bomber blew himself up at a police station in Sumatra, killing himself and wounding six civilians.

Hundreds of suspects were rounded up after the attacks, which came more than a year after a suicide bomber family killed a dozen congregants in attacks at churches in Indonesia's second-biggest city, Surabaya.

On Tuesday the country's new chief security minister Mahfud said high security was also meant to ensure Christian communities could celebrate Christmas without being targeted by groups keen to disrupt the festivities.

"We need to anticipate as early as possible things like intolerant incidents and burning down houses of worship," the minister, who goes by one name, told reporters.

Conservative Muslim groups frequently raid shopping malls and other public places to protest against Christmas displays or seasonal attire worn by Muslim employees.

READ: Indonesian government to step up efforts to tackle radicalisation among civil servants

Source: AFP/jt

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