JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia is deploying some 18,000 police and troops to guard churches and mosques over Christmas and New Year with terror mastermind Noordin Mohammad Top still on the loose, police have said.
The US embassy warned Monday of the possibility of militant attacks against Americans and other Westerners during the festive season.
National police chief Sutanto said the force “will be on the alert because (Noordin) is still at large.”
Noordin is a key member of the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah extremist network, blamed for a series of terrorist attacks including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.
Jakarta police spokesman Ketut Untung Yoga Ana said “Operation Candlelight” would kick off on December 23 for 11 days.
Some 18,000 police and army personnel would be deployed to safeguard churches and mosques, as well as strategic public and commercial venues in Jakarta, Ana said.
Other areas were also planning security operations to safeguard Christmas celebrations and tourist spots.
The US embassy warned of the “continued serious security threat” to Westerners.
“In recent years terrorist attacks have occurred in Jakarta and elsewhere during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season. The embassy urges Americans to remain vigilant about security at all times,” it said in a statement on its website.
“Terrorist attacks could occur at any time and could be directed against any location, including those frequented by foreigners and identifiably American or other Western facilities or businesses in Indonesia,” it said.
Indonesia was hit by a wave of bomb attacks on 38 churches or priests on Christmas Eve 2000 in which 19 people died.
The attacks were blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah which is also held responsible for the Bali bombings and deadly attacks on Jakarta’s Marriott hotel and the city’s Australian embassy.