Thu, 17 Jul 2003

Govt asks public to stay calm amid terror threats

Tiarma Siboro The Jakarta Post Jakarta

The government appealed to the public to stay calm but vigilant in the face of renewed terror attacks targeting Indonesia, while ordering security to be tightened at key installations across the country.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said people were asked to conduct their routine daily activities but were asked to immediately report to security officers whenever they noted anything suspicious.

"We ask people to remain calm and keep an eye out for anything suspicious that may lead to acts of terror," Susilo told a press briefing.

"I must underline this because security authorities in Southeast Asia have informed us that acts of terror are likely to continue in the future and are targeting countries, including Indonesia."

Susilo said he had called for heightened security at all government buildings and public facilities and ordered that all these premises be guarded by professional security officers.

"(The measures) also include tighter security at government institutions that keep weapons, ammunition and explosives," he said.

He further asked the country's intelligence, immigration and customs and tax officials to improve coordination.

Security measures will be intensified at seaports and airports across the country, particularly in Greater Jakarta and Central Java, where police captured nine suspected members of the Jamaah Islamiyah terrorist group, said Susilo.

JI, a regional terrorist group that has been linked to al- Qaeda, is said to be responsible for last year's Bali bombings which killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

Before the Bali blasts, senior government officials -- including Susilo and Vice president Hamzah Haz -- routinely denied that terrorists were targeting the world's most populous Muslim nation.

The government's move on Wednesday came on the heels of a fresh bomb blast that rocked the House of Representatives compound on Monday, while a suspected JI leader Fathur Rohman al- Ghozi escaped from Cramp Crame prison in the Philippines.

The two events took place only days after the police announced that they had arrested nine JI members led by a man identified as Mustofa and seized more than 1,000 detonators and other explosives, assault rifles and ammunition after a nationwide crackdown on terrorist cells in 11 cities in Java between July 4 and July 11.

Around 30 suspected JI members are facing charges of terrorism at district courts in Denpasar, the South Sulawesi capital of Makassar and the East Java town of Lamomgan. Susilo asserted that the trial had made Indonesia more vulnerable to terrorist attacks compared to its Southeast Asian neighbors.

Some of the defendants are also being charged with masterminding a series of blasts in Jakarta and other places in 2000 and 2001, including alleged JI leader Abu Bakar Ba'asyir.

A series of blasts had taken place in Jakarta and the North Sumatra capital of Medan before the explosion in the House compound.

The police have yet to name any suspects in the House blast, which caused no injuries.

"In October, Indonesia will also host the ASEAN Summit in Denpasar, and of course, many parties may use this event to create terror," Susilo said.

Indonesia will also hold the annual convention of the People's Consultative Assembly between Aug. 1 and Aug. 10.

Susilo said the government offensive against Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels may spark acts of terror perpetrated by the separatists to draw both national and international attention.

But when asked whether JI or GAM were responsible for the recent blast in the House compound, Susilo said: "It could be any group. We don't know yet. Let's just wait for the results of the police investigation."