Indonesian police are planning a huge security operation to safeguard the year-end festive season, police said yesterday following warnings that extremists may be planning attacks over the Christmas and New Year period.
In the capital Jakarta, some 16,000 police would be deployed from Saturday to safeguard the 1,252 churches in the city as well as strategic public and commercial venues, city police spokesman Ketut Untung Yoga Ana said.
"About two-thirds of our force will be deployed for 10 days starting on Dec. 24 to safeguard the end of the year festivities," Ana said, adding that the deployment would be for a period of 10 days.
Indonesia's intelligence agency warned earlier last week that information indicated extremists may be planning attacks over the Christmas-New Year period in large cities across the mainly Muslim nation.
Documents seized from a terrorist hideout in Semarang last month showed that a group linked to master bombers Azahari Husin and Noordin Mohammad Top planned to launch bomb attacks on Christmas day.
Azahari has since been killed in a police raid, but Top, who is also a key member of the Jemaah Islamiyah regional extremist network remains on the loose.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for a string of deadly attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings as well as attacks on a US-run hotel and the Australian embassy here.
Police are closely coordinating with churches across the city to provide adequate security to safeguard their Christmas services, Ana said.
In Indonesia's second largest city Surabaya in East Java, local police were also providing heavy security for the 419 churches there, the Surabaya police chief Sutarman told the state Antara news agency.
Without giving figures, he said the security measures would involve uniformed as well as plainclothes police and snipers.