Australia warned of possible terrorist attacks in Indonesia over the Christmas-New Year period, saying on Monday it had received reports militants were in the advanced stages of planning attacks against Western targets.
The new advisory issued by Australia came after Jakarta police said last week they would boost security in the capital ahead of Christmas to avoid a repeat past terrorist attacks during the holiday season.
“We continue to receive a stream of reporting indicating that terrorists are in the advanced stages of planning attacks against Western interests in Indonesia,” Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs said on its travel Web site Smartraveller.gov.au.
“These attacks could be targeted at places where Westerners gather, such as churches,” the department said.
Jakarta’s police chief General Firman Gani said last week up to 17,000 personnel would be put on standby over the holiday season.
In 2000 a spate of bombings rocked churches in the capital and other major cities in Indonesia on Christmas Eve, killing at least 19 people.
Volunteers from Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization said on Friday they would guard churches across the world’s most populous Muslim nation on Christmas.
Around 85 percent of Indonesia’s 220 million people are Muslim. Christians form the second largest religious group in the country as a whole, as well as in Jakarta.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs said Westerners in Jakarta and on the resort island of Bali were priority targets for militants, although attacks at any time could not be ruled out for anywhere in Indonesia.
Scores of Australians have been killed in bombings in Indonesia in the past few years. In 2002, 88 Australians were among the 202 people killed by the nightclub bombings in Bali. Another four Australians were killed in Bali in October 2005 when three suicide bombers attacked restaurants.
In 2004, a suicide car bomb exploded outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta, killing 10 Indonesians.