Wed, 30 Apr 2003

U.S. and UK warns of more attacks

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The United States and Britain on Tuesday reissued warnings for their citizens not to visit Indonesia, after bomb attacks in downtown Jakarta and the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.

Citing the continued "high risk of terrorism directed against westerners throughout the country", the British embassy warned against all non-essential travel to Indonesia.

"There continues to be a high risk of terrorism directed against Westerners throughout the country. If you are already in Indonesia you should consider leaving if your presence is not essential," the travel advisory said.

One low-yield bomb went off near the United Nations mission in Central Jakarta last Thursday, but caused little damage and no casualties.

Investigators believe it could be linked to last Sunday's bomb explosion at the Jakarta airport, which injured at least 11 people, and another in Medan, North Sumatra.

National Police Chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said on Monday that the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), a secessionist movement fighting for the independence of the oil-rich province, was behind the airport bombing, though GAM have denied any link to the attack.

Speculation remains that the Indonesian Military (TNI) or the regional terrorist network Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), believed responsible for the devastating Bali terrorist attack last year, could be behind the incidents.

The U.S. government also renewed its warning, urging its citizens to defer nonessential travel to Indonesia although the U.S. State Department allowed the return of its staff and their family members early this month.

The U.S. government withdrew non-essential staff from Indonesia following the Bali attack, which claimed 202 mostly foreign lives.

The travel advisory issued on April 28 said that a series of bombings over the past two-and-a-half years had struck religious, political and business targets throughout Indonesia.

"The U.S. government believes extremist elements may be planning additional attacks targeting U.S. interests in Indonesia, particularly U.S. government officials and facilities. As security is increased at official U.S. facilities, terrorists will seek softer targets," the advisory said.

The British embassy concurred, saying: "We continue to receive information that indicates extremists may be planning additional attacks targeting Western interests."

The U.S. and British governments issued a number of similar warnings after the Bali bombings.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri recently called on foreign governments to lift the warnings, which affected the country's tourism industry.

Arguing that the country's security situation was under control, the Indonesian government had launched protests over such travel warning.

The authorities gained international credit for the arrests of most of the alleged Bali terrorists. Trials are expected to start next month.

"Despite the efforts of the Indonesian government, the threat from terrorism has not been eliminated," the British advisory said.