Thu, 26 Oct 2000

U.S. embassy in Jakarta gets attack threat

JAKARTA (JP): The public services section of the U.S. embassy here will be closed for the rest of the week after "credible information" was received of a possible attack, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday.

The embassy was already closed on Wednesday in observance of the Ascension Day of the Prophet Muhammad, which is a national holiday. It has been decided that the public services section will not reopen on Thursday and Friday, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker was quoted by AFP as saying in Washington.

"In response to credible information of a threat to the embassy compound, the ambassador and his team decided to close the public services for the remainder of the week," Reeker was quoted as saying.

He declined to give details as to the nature of the information received.

Meanwhile, AP quoted the embassy spokesman Karl Fritz as saying that the consular and visa services would be discontinued until Monday because the embassy had received "a credible threat". He refused to elaborate.

However, the embassy will remain open and its consulate will serve U.S citizens as usual, he added.

The statement comes amid almost daily anti-Israel protests since the upsurge in violence in the Middle East. The U.S embassy is often targeted due to the country's close link with the Jewish state.

House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung said on Wednesday that the decision to close the public services section of the embassy was an "overreaction".

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a seminar organized by the Family of Muslim Students Association Alumni (KAHMI) here, Akbar said the protests were a consequence of the country's democratization process.

He said he was informed that the Indonesian government had guaranteed that the demonstrations did not intend to harm or to break the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of Muslim students staged protests in front of the embassy in Central Jakarta.

Waving banners reading "Kill Jews" and "Israel you are a devil", nearly 300 protesters chanted and denounced alleged U.S support for the Jewish state.

The students had earlier gathered at the Al-Azhar Mosque in South Jakarta before marching to the U.S. embassy, stopping briefly in front of the UN mission on the way. They also carried posters criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. President Bill Clinton.

On Oct. 12, the day of the attack on the USS Cole naval destroyer moored off Aden, the United States issued a worldwide travel alert, warning U.S. citizens to step up their security ahead of possible anti-American demonstrations and terrorist attacks.

This followed a similar warning issued on Oct. 4 as clashes intensified between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. (02/byg)