Indonesian security forces stormed airports, glitzy hotels, passenger ships and the Jakarta Stock Exchange building yesterday in a massive anti-terrorism drill in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
About 7,000 police, soldiers and emergency-response workers were taking part in the exercise held in six major cities, including the capital, Jakarta, and on the popular resort island of Bali.
Indonesia has been hit by a string of deadly suicide bombings targeting Westerners in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US. However, experts say the risk of more large-scale attacks has diminished with the arrest of hundreds of suspects.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said, however, last month’s militant rampage in the Indian city of Mumbai that left 164 dead highlighted the need to remain alert.
Indonesian television broadcast live footage of black-clad counterterrorism forces dropping by helicopter onto the roof of the five-star Borobudur Hotel before blasting through windows to release screaming hostages, leaving a trail of shattered glass.
In another scenario at a local airport, mock-terrorists seized an airplane carrying the president, killing the pilot and dumping the body onto the tarmac. After a 90-minute standoff, security forces overpowered ransom-demanding militants.
Similar drills will be held on Bali, which has suffered two series of suicide bombings in 2002 and 2005 that killed more than 220 people, many of them foreign tourists.
Security forces also will “storm” a ship in the Strait of Malacca, among the world’s busiest shipping lanes, in a bid to free hundreds of passengers seized in another mock-raid, national police spokesman Abubakar Nataprawira said.
Members of regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah have been blamed for all of the recent suicide bombings in Indonesia, as well as a number of failed terrorism plots in Southeast Asia.
The last major attack in Indonesia occurred three years ago.