Indonesia to beef up security for Christmas holidays

The Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta. More than 80 per cent of Indonesians are Muslims, but the government official recognises five other religions. Photo: Michael J. Lowe/Wikimedia Commons.

Indonesia’s military chief says more than 150,000 security personnel will be deployed across the country to protect churches and public places during Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

“We call on all communities, such as Islamic and Hindu youth organisations, to participate in safeguarding churches during Christmas,” said armed forces chief Gatot Nurmantyo.

“Some of the youth organisations have stated their readiness.”

Indonesia is home to more Muslims than any other country, at more than 80 per cent of the population, but it also recognises five other religions – Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

The government has warned that Indonesians fighting for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria could try to return and launch attacks, though reports said officials have said they do not see credible or specific threats of a terror attack in the near future.

National police chief Badrodin Haiti told reporters earlier this week that officers will be on their highest alert level between December 24 and January 2, as millions of people travel across the sprawling archipelago nation for the holidays.

Military and police troops will be deployed at airports, train stations, houses of worship and public celebrations, he said.

Earlier this month, Indonesian authorities warned there was a risk of a terror attack over the holiday period, as police in the resort island of Bali tightened security, particularly at Denpasar airport.

Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, co-ordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, told reporters that a terrorist attack during the holiday period was “possible”.

“That’s why we’re alert in all airports, sea and air, and possibly other places too,” he said.

Meanwhile, extra security was provided to six senior police officials who were targeted in threats, apparently from Islamic State, reports said.

Non-governmental organisation Indonesia Police Watch, said the six officials were singled out because they were “considered the most responsible for arresting radical groups and those indicated as ISIS [Islamic State] members in Indonesia”.

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